Allegheny Co. Executive Rich Fitzgerald spoke with KDKA's John Shumway about voting during the pandemic.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Mail-in voting is now underway in Pennsylvania, and you can even go vote in person.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the county has already sent out about 100,000 ballots.

“We could have upwards of 400,000 people who will vote by mail. To put that in perspective four years ago, we had about 660,000 people total who voted, 40,000 of which voted by absentee. So you can see you know we’re talking about a big difference.”

Fitzgerald says it’s critical that voters go ahead and fill out the ballot and send it in when you get it to minimize any mailing risk.

And he emphasizes, “You know, people have to fill it out properly. They’ve got to put it in a secrecy envelope, and then put it in the mail-in envelope and sign it. Put the date on it, and the information, your address, and send it back.”

The secrecy envelop is critical.

Fitzgerald says if you don’t put your ballot in the secrecy envelop it may not be counted.

“Most likely it will not. I know there will be some court cases that will go through that, but as of now that vote would be discarded. So it’s very important that people put their ballot in the secrecy envelope before they put it in the return mail envelope”

Allegheny County is going to be setting up locations around the county where you can avoid mailing in your ballot and drop them off instead.

A list of those locations can be found here.

Fitzgerald says the locations were chosen to cover the entire county and give voters a way to personally drop off your ballot or vote.

“So you’ll be able to do two things. You will have a box a return a ballot box with which you can drop off your mail in ballot, or if you haven’t applied for a mail in ballot, you can go and do it that day. You will be given a ballot, and then you could go to a table of privacy area, fill in that ballot, darken in the ovals, put it inside a secrecy envelope, put it inside the return envelope, sign it, and drop it in the, what they call the dropbox for ballots.”

The regional locations will be open the three weekends leading up to the election and only the person voting can drop off their own ballot.

The location in the City-County Building on Ross Street is open weekdays.

You can go there and submit your mail in ballot application or bypass that process all together and vote on the spot.

Once submitted, the mail-in votes will be secured at the Allegheny County election tabulation warehouse where they will be opened and counted starting at 7:00 a.m. on election day.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald is keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 numbers in the county after restrictions were dropped on Friday and in the wake of a federal judge ruling the state’s restrictions were unconstitutional.

“I’ve been concerned since March, and we have ebbs and flows as things go on. The one thing I think we’ve seen here in our region and in Allegheny County is people for the most part, have been very very cooperative, people have been wearing their masks, keeping distance, understanding the ramifications of how to avoid this, by washing your hands, and all the things we’ve been learning, over the last six plus months from our experts.”

Watch as KDKA’s John Shumway interviews Allegheny Co. Executive Rich Fitzgerald

 

While the restrictions may be gone, he says the enforcement is not.

“Dr. Bogen and her team will continue to go out and do the work that they’ve been doing. And a lot of it has been, how do I say, kindly advice, you know, just gentle persuasion, and most people have been very very good about following that.”

He says the county is still weighing its options regarding citing Atlantic Aviation or the Trump Campaign for last week’s rally at Pittsburgh International Airport.

“I think they’re looking into that and obviously those kind of events are very irresponsible. I think you saw the governor, put out some very strong language the other day and I concur with that. I agree, as Governor Wolf has said, it is not a good idea for thousands of people to be showing up shoulder to shoulder for hours on end, not wearing masks, it’s a super spreader event.”

Fitzgerald hopes the COVID-19 numbers will continue to recede locally, but if they do spike, the county is ready with contract tracing and will react to quash any problems that arise.