What you need to know for the primary election

With the presidential primary election just under a month away, citizens have less than two weeks to register to vote or make changes to their registration.

The deadline to register to vote, change party affiliation or address before the primary election is 5 p.m. April 8. The Venango County Elections Office will be open until 5 p.m. that day.

Venango County has seen an uptick in the number of people registering to vote or changing their registration, with many using the motor voter option at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make the changes, Voter Registrar Laura Anna said.

“It used to be you had to opt in (to the DMV voter registration), now you have to opt out,” she explained.

Typically, Anna said she sees more Democrats switching to Republicans rather than vice versa, but in the past two months “it has been much more even.” In addition, “I have seen an uptick in third-party registration.”

Pennsylvania holds a closed primary, meaning only voters registered Republican can vote in the Republican primary and Democrats in their party’s primary.

Third-party voters aren’t permitted to vote in the primary unless their is a judge up for retention or a referendum on the ballot. There are no retention questions or referendums on the ballot in this year’s primary.

Polls on April 23 will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

“The kids ballots are going to be epic this year; so kids should go to vote with their parents,” Anna said.

Children in Venango County will be polled on their favorite activity and least favorite vegetable, among other pressing questions, both Bailey and Anna said.

The only polling location to change in Venango County is in Jackson Township, which has been moved from the municipal building to Donation Hill Bible Church.

The ballots for the primary are at the printers as of Tuesday, according to Venango County Elections Director Melanie Bailey, and that ballots will be mailed out as soon as possible.

The deadline to request a mail-in or absentee ballot is 5 p.m. April 16. The Elections Office will be open until 5 p.m. that day.

Voters also have the option to return their mail-in or absentee ballot in person to the Venango County Elections Office in the Courthouse Annex, Anna said. If a voter is unable to come up the stairs to the office, he or she may park in front of the building and call the office, and election staff will come pick up the ballot.

As of Tuesday, the Elections Office had received 2,281 mail-in ballot applications, 127 absentee-ballot applications, and 13 applications for military and civilian overseas ballots.

So far, of the 2,421 total ballots that had been requested, 1,534 were requested by Democrats and 887 by Republicans, according to the Elections Office. That’s less than half of the applications received four years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Bailey said, the office sent out almost 7,000 mail-in and absentee ballots during the primary.

More people are heading to the polls since the fear of COVID-19 has subsided, she said.

The public test of the voting machines is scheduled at 9 a.m. April 19, in Room 100 of the Courthouse Annex.

“It is so much fun to show off our equipment, I wish more people would come,” Anna said.