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State acts to help overseas voters get around ballot barrier

October 3, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Officials who oversee voting in Pennsylvania on Wednesday promoted ways for people living overseas to obtain absentee ballots after some encountered computer barriers set up to prevent meddling with elections.

The Department of State outlined new procedures the same day The Philadelphia Inquirer reported instructions for overseas voters had led some voters to an online dead-end.

Those who are unable to obtain a ballot should call a toll-free number or email the agency’s help desk, where staff has been bolstered to address the problem.

Department of State communications director Wanda Murren said it was not clear how many people ran into the cyber barrier, but it did not affect all overseas ballot applicants.

She said officials realized they had a problem within the past couple weeks and instituted changes Monday, as they also notified about 4,000 people who had already requested to receive their ballots electronically about the new procedures.

Murren said the problem relates to a security upgrade put in place as part of the state’s response to concerns about meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he endorsed the Department of State’s approach.

“The governor is satisfied that there is a process in place that balances the need for increased security from international threats to our voting systems with ensuring citizens overseas can easily obtain their ballots,” said the spokesman, J.J. Abbott.

Four years ago, the state sent out more than 7,200 ballots to Pennsylvanians stationed with the military or otherwise living in foreign countries.

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