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House State Government Committee Approves Pre-Canvassing Legislation

Although it still has quite a way to travel, something that Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have been asking for is one step closer to becoming reality.

Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Centre) sponsored House Bill 847 that would ensure more timely and accurate counting of mail and absentee ballots by allowing county election workers to do pre-canvassing of ballots up to seven days before Election Day.

County officials have complained to lawmakers that the state’s current law – which does not allow pre-canvassing of mail and absentee ballots to begin until 7 a.m. on Election Day – is inadequate.

“Election board workers statewide are telling us that with the increase in mail and absentee ballots, the current system isn’t leaving them enough time to tabulate votes,” Conklin said. “It’s a situation that is leading to frustration and delays, injecting a greater chance of error and even generating voter mistrust of the system.

“This is a bipartisan issue – we’re hearing these complaints from workers on both sides of the political aisle. By giving election workers the time they need to tabulate votes, my bill would expedite the process and help eliminate the delays that can slow or obstruct a fair, democratic process.”

The bill has gained some bipartisan support, including one of the City Commissioner’s in the state’s largest city – Philadelphia’s Seth Bluestein.

“By empowering counties to pre-canvass mail ballots, we not only expedite the vote-counting procedure but also foster transparency, mitigate the risk of misinformation and ultimately fortify the public’s confidence in our democratic system,” the Republican official said. “Pennsylvania needs these reforms to position the commonwealth as a beacon of election integrity for the entire nation.”

In addition to extending the time for pre-canvassing, Conklin’s bill would allow voters to apply in-person for a mail-in ballot the day before the election, instead of seven days before. The change would allow voters to apply and vote their mail-in ballot on the spot at any county election board or satellite office through the day before Election Day.

The legislation would also enhance election security ahead of Election Day, increase transparency for viewing the pre-canvass and canvass of ballots, and require the county boards to notify electors who have minor defects with ballots so that they can be corrected before Election Day.

“Promises made, promises kept,” said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta after the vote. “I offered an amendment to HB847 to clarify definitions, further enfranchise voters, and allowing for voters to cure ballots. It passed. (I’m) working to make the bill even stronger.”

The bill now heads to the state House for further consideration.

Under state election law, “pre-canvassing” includes inspecting and opening envelopes containing official mail-in or absentee ballots; removing them from their envelopes; and “counting, computing and tallying” the votes reflected on the ballots. It does not include recording or publishing the votes reflected on the ballots.

5 Responses

  1. I hope that this bill contains a provision ensuring that mail-in ballots, while counted prior to election day, the counts remain secret and secure until all polling has been closed at the end of the day.


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