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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: November 6, 2020 04:49 PM
From: Senator Judy Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Absentee and Mail-In Ballot Reform
To help ensure the integrity of our election process in the future given the concerns raised during the 2020 Presidential Election, I plan to introduce legislation amending the Election Code as it relates to canvassing of official absentee ballots and mail-in ballots.
First, my measure would allow more people to observe pre-canvassing and canvassing of ballots. In addition to allowing the authorized representative of each candidate and a representative from each political party to observe the pre-canvassing and canvassing of ballots, my measure would also permit the county chairperson of each political party or a designee to be present. In addition, the measure provides that individuals allowed to watch shall have a clear line of sight to view and hear the proceedings. Issues were raised regarding the ability to view the processing of ballots in Philadelphia so this revision would make clear that these individuals should be able to properly view the process.  
Second, the bill would further clarify and make clear that only those ballots received by 8:00 PM Election Day may be canvassed. The only exception would be for valid military-overseas ballots timely received. I believe the PA Supreme Court overstepped its boundaries by allowing ballots to be accepted up to three days after election day when current law explicitly states completed ballots “must be received in the office of the county board of elections no later than eight o’clock P.M. on the day of the primary or election”.  Failure to abide by the law runs counter to ensuring a fraud-free election and timely results. It is not the role of the courts to set policy but the General Assembly. While the U.S. Supreme Court could still take up this matter after the election, I want to make unambiguously clear in state law that such ballots cannot be canvassed once the polls close.
Finally, my proposal would establish procedures for when signatures on absentee or mail-in ballots don’t match. If the county board of elections is not satisfied with the signature, the county board shall notify the elector (i.e., mail, e-mail, telephone) that their signature doesn’t match what is on file and that they must provide the county board a signature (electronic, facsimile or paper copy) within 6 days along with proof of identification and affirming that they are the same person who remitted the ballot. The notification would stipulate that the elector’s ballot would not be counted if they fall to comply. Just as voters have their signatures checked at the polls when voting in-person, so should the signature on ballots be checked to verify and prevent any fraud.
The Presidential election has called into question the integrity of our voting system and I believe these revisions will help to restore elections that are free from the shadow of doubt that has been cast over the democratic process.
Please join me in cosponsoring this important piece of legislation.