Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday that Pennsylvania will launch a new option for voters to apply online for absentee ballots, starting with the November election. 

Staff with the Cambria County elections office have already participated in a webinar on the new procedure last week and say the process will be similar to the state’s online voter registration, which was launched in 2015. 

Shirley Crowl, Cambria County’s director of elections, said voters “caught on in no time,” to online voter registration and expects the same for online absentee ballot applications.

“I think there will be an adjustment period,” Crowl said. “I think in the long run, this will lighten the paper load.”

According to a press release from Wolf’s office, voters’ only choice in previous elections was to complete a paper absentee application and mail or hand-deliver it to their county election office for processing. 

“Applying for an absentee ballot online will make the process faster and more accessible for thousands of voters,” Wolf said. “This builds on the option to register to vote online, which Pennsylvania launched four years ago and it will provide an easier way for people to exercise their right to vote.”  

The mobile-friendly, online application site, www.votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee, will go live on Monday, the first day registered voters can apply for absentee ballots ahead of the November 5 election. 

“This online application is our latest innovation to make voting more convenient and increase voter participation,” said Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. “The deadlines set in the 1937 election code have become increasingly challenging to meet, and the ability to apply online will cut days from the process.” 

When an applicant completes the online form, the information is forwarded directly to the appropriate county elections office for processing. 

Voters must still mail or hand deliver their completed ballot to their county election office by Nov. 1. 

Initially, online absentee ballot applications will require a PennDOT driver’s license or ID number for electronic processing. An update is planned by 2020 to allow use by applicants who do not have a PennDOT number. 

The state’s election code allows registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot up to one week before an election, which is just three days before the deadline to submit a voted absentee ballot. This year, the deadline to apply by paper or online for an absentee ballot is Oct. 29. 

The new online absentee application system will be accessible to all domestic Pennsylvania voters and will be made available to military and overseas voters by 2020. 

Absentee ballots may be cast by individuals with illnesses or disabilities, individuals who will be away from their municipality on Election Day and students attending out-of-state colleges or universities, among others. 

For more information, visit www.votespa.com

​Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.

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