Despite efforts in many states to expand early voting both in person and through mail-in ballots, the results of November’s election may still be delayed because a number of key states do not allow those votes to be processed until Election Day.
Lawmakers in swing states including Pennsylvania and Michigan have pushed to change state laws to enable pre-canvassing — which includes opening ballot envelopes and verifying them, readying them for eventual counting — before Nov. 3, but with varying success.
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“Regardless of what your political affiliation might be, no one wants to have a situation where the results of the election are not determined until weeks or even months later,” Bucks County, Pa., Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo wrote in a September op-ed for the Courier Times. “We need legislation to be passed into law which allows counties to conduct pre-canvassing.”
DiGirolamo, a Republican, warned that pre-canvassing is the only way to prevent a delay. In Pennsylvania’s primary, more people voted by mail than in person.
“If we are not given the authority to do this, we’ll be forced to contend with a man-made disaster — one that easily could be avoided if our legislature and governor would work together,” he wrote.
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The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) has asked lawmakers in Harrisburg to allow pre-canvassing three days before the election, according to local Fox43. Current law does not allow the process to begin until the morning of Election Day.
A Republican-backed bill would allow pre-canvassing in advance, but Democrats are resisting it as it includes other measures such as restrictions on drop boxes for mailed ballots.
The CCAP is hoping that the state legislature will consider a bill that only deals with pre-canvassing.
“Without the ability to pre-canvas prior to Election Day it may take days or even weeks until final election results are known,” CCAP president Jeff Snyder told Fox43.
Michigan has seen greater progress with pre-canvassing, as the Republican-led state legislature approved a bill that calls for allowing the state to begin pre-canvassing the day before Election Day, with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expected to sign it, the Detroit Free Press reported.
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Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in September that she supports the bill, but that she wishes it gave more time for pre-canvassing. Benson said in a statement that while one recommendation called for seven days for pre-canvassing, the bill only gives workers ten hours.
“Senate Bill 757 is a step in the right direction but does not go nearly far enough to provide the relief that clerks have been seeking for more than a year,” Benson said. “I support the small step forward because I know at this point clerks will take any legislative assistance. But the bill comes up far short of what our clerks and voters deserve.”