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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: April 12, 2021 11:09 AM
From: Senator Steven J. Santarsiero
To: All Senate members
Subject: Permitting Counties to Pre-Canvass Mail-in Ballots 21 Days Prior to Election Day
Act 77 of 2019 allows Pennsylvanians to vote by mail up to 50 days prior to an election, without requiring an excuse for not voting in person. While this measure certainly made voting more convenient for Pennsylvania voters, counties have struggled to process the flood of mail-in ballots, evidenced by the 2020 primary election, where 1.5 million mail-in ballots were cast—a dramatic increase from the 84,000 absentee ballots that were cast in the 2016 primary.
Anticipating that problem, however, the Election Code was amended again in April 2020 to allow counties to begin pre-canvassing ballots, but not tally the results, as of 7:00 AM on Election Day, as election officials were previously prohibited from doing until the polls were closed. Clearly, counties struggled to process and tally ballots in a timely manner, as a number of races throughout the state took days, if not weeks, 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.
Our Special Committee on Elections has had two hearings to date. In the first, elections officials from other states who testified all stated that they allow earlier pre-canvassing of ballots without any problems. In the second hearing, Democratic and Republican county officials here in PA all agreed that more time is needed for the counties to-pre-canvass and none objected to allowing 21 days for this work.
Thank you in advance for considering this important legislation.

Introduced as SB599