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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: June 9, 2020 02:23 PM
From: Senator Steven J. Santarsiero
To: All Senate members
Subject: Permitting Counties to Pre-Canvass Mail-in Ballots 21 Days Prior to Election Day
Under Act 77 of 2019 Pennsylvanians may now vote by mail up to 50 days before an election, without an excuse. While this measure certainly made voting more convenient and more secure for millions of Pennsylvanians, counties have struggled to process the flood of mail-in ballots.
Anticipating that problem, in April, we again amended the law by passing Act 12 of 2020, to allow counties to begin pre-canvassing ballots — but not tallying results — as of 7:00 am on Election Day (i.e., when the polls open).  
This spring, more than 1.8 million voters requested mail ballots — almost 17 times the 107,000 requests in the 2016 primary. The COVID-19 crisis certainly accelerated the adoption of voting by mail, but it’s likely that as voters become more comfortable voting by mail that more of them will do so over time.  
Counties have struggled to process and tally ballots in a timely way.  A number of races have yet to be called.  For that reason I intend to introduce legislation that will allow county boards of election to pre-canvass all mail-in ballots beginning 21 days prior to election day.
Counties were previously prohibited from doing so until the polls closed on election day. While Act 12 of 2020 changed the start time to 7:00 a.m., more time is required if we are to expect election results soon after the polls close. 
Thank you in advance for considering this important legislation.