Counties ask lawmakers to move on expanding mail-in pre-canvassing & ballot application deadline

Written by on June 2, 2021

Counties ask lawmakers to move on expanding mail-in pre-canvassing & ballot application deadline

By Sam Dunklau / WITF

June 2, 2021

Mail-in ballots for the 2020 General Election in the United States are seen after being sorted at the Chester County Voter Services office, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in West Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pennsylvania’s Republican lawmakers have yet to introduce a promised package of voting law changes – which could include tighter voter identification requirements. The group representing county commissioners says it would like to see other changes.

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Kevin Boozel, a Butler County commissioner and president of the County Commissioners of Pennsylvania, says more people have voted by mail than ever before, thanks to election law changes made before the pandemic.

To keep up with demand, Boozel says counties like his have had to hire extra election workers and pull all-nighters to count ballots with very few problems.

But that has meant slower results and worn-out workers.

“We’ve learned a lot from those experiences and now we need the state and General Assembly to step up, to help us and to help our voters,” Boozel says. 

How they can help, Boozel says, is to give counties more time to open and sort mail-in ballots and move up the deadline to apply for one to 15 days before an election.

Under the current rules, people can send vote-by-mail applications to their county office up to seven days before an election.

While Republican House lawmakers agree on the second change, there hasn’t been much talk about the first.

Gov. Tom Wolf has opposed that change in the past.

Without them both, Boozel says, counties may not be able to turn out quick election results this November.

Indiana County commissioner Sherene Hess says that doesn’t give counties enough time to send them their ballots, which forces some to vote in person.

“That undermines the flexibility and convenience that mail-in ballots are supposed to provide voters and adds to the time it takes counties to provide results as we reconcile those ballots,” Hess says.

County commissioners want to see a shorter application window and expanded ballot processing measure pass before the end of June.

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