Q&A with Kris Rust About the PA Primary, Critical Elections, and Mail-In Ballots

This is a very confusing time. We spend hours trying to find toilet paper and disinfectant, worrying about access to critical medications that are being redirected to maybe cure COVID-19, and having our evening news interrupted by a ridiculous puppet President who lies and misleads us every single fucking day.

One point of confusion is the upcoming Primary Election in Pennsylvania, originally scheduled for the end of April, but now postponed until Tuesday, June 2, 2020. I have a lot of questions about this and related issues including mail-in ballots, campaigning, best practices so I went to folks who not only understand these issues but have the capacity to break it down for the rest of us.

One such person is Kris Rust, long-time activist. Kris is a thoughtful activist with experience on electoral campaigns as well as the prime mover on legislation such as the County’s non-discrimination ordinance. Kris has a reassuring demeanor coupled with a fiery sense of fairness and justice. He’s smart, savvy, and sincere. His take on the Pennsylvania Primary is worth a read.

You may want to also read another take on this from Matt Merriman-Preston. Read both. Several times. Kris Rust

Your Name:  Kris Rust
Your Pronouns: He Him His
Your Affilation(s):  Democratic activist

How do you describe your identity?  Liberal, artist, gay cis white man, ally to all marginalized humans & other beings

What are the details about the upcoming Pennsylvania Primary Election (date, time, etc)? Vote by mail (no reason needed) through 8pm on Primary Election Day, Tuesday, June 2.  Vote in person at your polling place, 7am-8pm

What is the deadline to register to vote? May 18.  Register online or download & print a voter registration form here: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx

The most competitive local PA Senate race in November will be #37 where Democrat Pam Iovino is the incumbent.

How does mail-in voting work? Do you recommend it over voting in person? Why or why not?’ Every state has different election laws.

In PA, request a mail-in ballot online before May 26 at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/OnlineAbsenteeApplication/#/OnlineAbsenteeBegin  When you begin your application for mail-in ballot, I suggest you indicate “no” when it asks if you have certain reasons for requesting a mail-in ballot.  As of this year (2020) you are NOT required to have a reason to vote by mail in PA.

Once you have completed the application online, your application will be forward to your county’s Bureau of Elections.  The county Bureau of Elections will mail out printed mail-in ballots to every voter in the county who applies for a mail-in ballot before May 26.

After you complete your paper mail-in ballot, you must follow instructions and mail it back to your county’s Bureau of Elections where it must be received on or before Primary Election Day, Tuesday, June 2.

I definitely recommend voting by mail instead of voting in person for 3 reasons:
1)  Mail-in voting is safer than in-person voting during this Corona virus pandemic.
2)  Mail-in voting is less time consuming and more convenient.
3)  Mail-in voting eliminates the risk of missing your chance to vote on Election Day because of sickness, family emergency or some other circumstance that prevents you from making it to your polling place between 7am-8pm.

How can I make sure my vote is counted? Don’t miss deadlines. Fill out the forms correctly.  Don’t put it off.  Put your vote “in the bank.”  You can find out your voting history from the Bureau of Elections, so you can always check to see if they received your ballot in a past election.

What about my neighbors vote? I usually drive them to the poll, but that’s off the table. What do I do Encourage neighbors and everyone you know to vote by mail.  You can help folks complete the application for a mail-in ballot. You can help them complete it online or you could print out paper applications to give family, friends and neighbors.  You could offer to mail the completed application.  You could follow up with them a week or two after the application has been submitted to find out if they have received their paper ballot.  You could offer to help them complete the ballot and put it in the mail.

Is there any plan to postpone or reschedule the election in Pennsylvania? Who makes that decision? What are the pros and cons?  The PA Legislature and Governor Wolf just this week passed legislation moving the Primary Election from April to June 2.  Hopefully, this will allow more time for people to figure out how to use the mail-in ballots.

What are some of the critical races in this region of Southwestern PA?

Statewide – US President, PA Auditor General, PA Treasurer, PA Attorney General

US House of Representatives – Western PA

The PA Legislature (made up of Senate & House) is very important for making all kinds of budgetary and policy decisions, including Congressional & Legislative redistricting (Gerrymandering), Education funding, healthcare funding, environmental protection, LGBTQIA+ non-discrimination protections, women’s rights, animal welfare, etc.

PA Senate – The most competitive local PA Senate race in November will be #37 where Democrat Pam Iovino is the incumbent.  Below is a summary of all the 2020 races in SWPA.  Keep in mind that PA Senators are elected every 4 years.  Even numbered seats (like Senators Lindsay Williams & Wayne Fontana in Dist 38 & 42) will be up again in 2022.

PA House – These seats are up for re-election every two years.  There are interesting primary races among Democrats in Allegheny Co Districts 19, 20, 30, 32, 34 & 36.  And there are several Districts that could flip from Rep to Dem in November.  Below is a summary.

How can I support my preferred candidates while practicing social distancing?

1) Vote by mail.

2) Contact your candidate and tell them you want to write post cards for them.  Ask them to send you an address list of voters they would like you to target and any messaging they would like you to include.  Donate stamps if you can.  Return the post cards to the campaign if you want them to take care of mailing the cards.

What is the best source of information for Pennsylvania voters?  League of Women Voters, Stonewall Democrats, Liberty City Democrats, 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club https://pgh14widc.org/

What is happening around the country? Have other states changed their elections? What impact will that have on the Presidential General Election? Many states have delayed their primary elections.  Hopefully Corona won’t be the major concern in November like it is now, but individuals and governments are looking closely at voting by mail.  Oregon does not have in person voting at all; it is all done by mail, and voter participation rates in Oregon are among the best in the nation.

Have we had this type of experience in prior elections? Not to my knowledge.

Is there anything you’d like to add?  Go online today, register to vote if you need to, and request a mail-in ballot.

Suggestions on social media accounts to follow for information on voting? https://pgh14widc.org/

Thank you, Kris.



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