Pennsylvania is launching a new option for voters to apply online for an absentee ballot starting with the November election.

In August 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf launched online voter registration. Since then, more than 1.4 million voter registration applications or changes have been submitted online.

In previous elections, voters’ only choice was to complete a paper absentee ballot 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, at votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee, will go live Sept. 16, the first day that registered voters may apply for absentee ballots for the Nov. 5 election.

“This online application is our latest innovation to make voting more convenient and increase voter participation,” said Kathy Boockvar, acting secretary of state. “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 the deadline, which is 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election, or Nov. 1 this year.

Initially, online absentee ballot applications will require a PennDOT driver's license or ID number in order to be processed electronically. The department is planning an update by 2020 that will allow use by applicants who do not have a PennDOT number.

The PA Election Code allows registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot up until 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 is 5 p.m. Oct. 29.

The system is currently accessible to all domestic Pennsylvania voters and will be available to military and overseas voters by 2020, state officials said.

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

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