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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 22, 2020 01:26 PM
From: Senator Art Haywood
To: All Senate members
Subject: Extending the Deadline for Counties to Receive Absentee and Mail-In Ballots
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to give counties seven days following the election to receive and count mail-in and absentee ballots.

As a Commonwealth, we are making a collective effort to encourage people to vote by mail for the primary and general elections because of safety concerns with the pandemic. To date, over one million Pennsylvanians have applied for mail-in ballots. However, the pandemic also is causing even local U.S. Postal Service deliveries to arrive in an average of four to six days. It is unreasonable to expect individuals who may apply for mail-in ballots the week before the election to receive and make sure counties physically receive them back within the span of one week. Additionally, the massive increase in mail-in ballots is going to be a trial by fire in many counties, where they anticipate and are beginning to receive a tidal wave of ballots in the mail.

My legislation will extend the deadline by which counties may receive and count mail-in and absentee ballots to the same deadline used for military and overseas ballots, which is through 5:00 p.m. the seventh day following an election. This bill will create uniformity in how votes not cast at the polls themselves are counted, as well as provide counties with more time to process the massive influx of ballots coming in by mail.

Currently by statute, counties have up to seven days to collect and count military and overseas ballots because a delay in mail delivery may cause the ballot to arrive after election day through no fault of the voter. Counties should have seven days to receive absentee and mail-in ballots for the same reasons.  In both cases, ballots are dependent on the efficiency of the mail. Barriers of geography or an overwhelmed mail delivery system will prevent thousands of Pennsylvanians from casting their ballots if the deadline to receive them is when the polls close on election day. Right now, your vote only is protected in one of those cases. A voter could do everything asked of him or her to cast a vote, and it could be thrown away through no fault of the voter. This is unacceptable.  

Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB1169