County leaders this week expressed their frustration at the lack of legislative action on two key election priorities, and once again called on the General Assembly to advance a bill to expand pre-canvassing and extend the mail-in ballot application deadline before the summer recess.
“It is time to help counties with what they need, right here and right now, to run the smooth and successful elections that our voters expect,” said CCAP President and Butler County Commissioner Kevin Boozel. “We have outlined two very simple solutions that would, as our counties have said, address the majority of challenges we have faced in implementing mail-in ballots, and we need the state and the General Assembly to step up to help counties, and to help our voters.”
However, despite the fact that counties have been urging these changes as priorities for months, there has been no legislative movement on the issues in the current session. With just a month left before the traditional start of the summer recess, time is running out to achieve these priorities so they can be successfully implemented for the November general election.
“Counties’ experiences have clearly demonstrated that if we could begin the pre-canvassing process up to three weeks in advance, we would be able to use our resources more effectively and efficiently to administer both the mail-in and in-person election,” said Sherene Hess, CCAP Elections Reform Committee chair and Indiana County commissioner. “We would know of any issues with mail-in ballots prior to election day, could focus our attention on running a successful in-person election on election day, and be more likely to deliver timely results on election night.”
Hess also noted that Pennsylvania can better set voters up for success by moving the mail-in application deadline back.
“When the current law says voters can apply up to seven days prior to an election, we are telling voters that if they follow the law, the process will work as advertised and they can be assured their vote will be able to be counted,” Hess said.
“Unfortunately, this is a promise we cannot guarantee we can keep to our voters, instead causing anxiety for voters who often end up coming to the polling place anyway to spoil their mail-in ballot or to vote by provisional ballot.”
Both Boozel and Hess commended counties for honoring their commitment to deliver fair, secure, accurate and accessible elections despite the challenges they have faced in the past year. But counties need the help of their state partners to improve their ability to administer mail-in ballots, and before moving on to other Election Code reforms.
“Counties have heard our state and legislative partners say they want to work with counties and give counties a voice on election reforms,” Boozel concluded. “Right now, nothing would show the sincerity of that sentiment more than to hear what we have been saying for months, and what we say again today – we need the General Assembly to focus on the swift passage of legislation that expands the pre-canvassing period and extends the mail-in ballot application deadline.”