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PRINTER'S NO. 1078
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
878
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY ARGALL, STREET, BOSCOLA, GORDNER, STEFANO, DUSH,
MENSCH, COMITTA, BARTOLOTTA, SCHWANK AND LANGERHOLC,
SEPTEMBER 17, 2021
REFERRED TO STATE GOVERNMENT, SEPTEMBER 17, 2021
AN ACT
Amending the act of June 3, 1937 (P.L.1333, No.320), entitled
"An act concerning elections, including general, municipal,
special and primary elections, the nomination of candidates,
primary and election expenses and election contests; creating
and defining membership of county boards of elections;
imposing duties upon the Secretary of the Commonwealth,
courts, county boards of elections, county commissioners;
imposing penalties for violation of the act, and codifying,
revising and consolidating the laws relating thereto; and
repealing certain acts and parts of acts relating to
elections," in the Secretary of the Commonwealth, further
providing for powers and duties of the Secretary of the
Commonwealth; in voting by qualified absentee electors,
further providing for voting by absentee electors and for
canvassing of official absentee ballots and mail-in ballots;
and, in voting by qualified mail-in electors, further
providing for applications for official mail-in ballots, for
date of application for mail-in ballot and for voting by
mail-in electors.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Section 201(f.1) of the act of June 3, 1937
(P.L.1333, No.320), known as the Pennsylvania Election Code, is
repealed and the section is amended by adding subsections to
read:
Section 201. Powers and Duties of the Secretary of the
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Commonwealth.--The Secretary of the Commonwealth shall exercise
in the manner provided by this act all powers granted to him by
this act, and shall perform all the duties imposed upon him by
this act, which shall include the following:
* * *
[(f.1) To develop a voluntary professional certification and
poll worker training program for county election officials in
consultation with county boards of elections.]
* * *
(i) To obtain and maintain uniformity in the interpretation
and implementation of election laws, which shall be posted on
the Department of State's publicly accessible Internet website
and shall provide citations to relevant provisions of this act
and include:
(1) Official instructions and procedures manual that shall
prescribe rules for all counties to achieve and maintain the
maximum degree of correctness, impartiality, uniformity and
efficiency on the procedures for voting and of producing,
distributing, collecting, counting, tabulating and storing
ballots.
(2) Department directives that provide official or
authoritative instructions to all counties that direct, guide
and impel action or defined goals.
(3) Guidance documents that provide advice or information
aimed at resolving a problem or difficulty.
(j) To establish rules submitted to the Legislative
Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin by
December 31 of each odd-numbered year regarding the transmittal
of unvoted ballots, ballot requests, voted ballots and other
election materials to and from polling places. Each rule shall
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provide citations to relevant provisions of this act.
(k) To provide technical assistance and reimbursement to
county election officials for free-of-charge poll-worker and
election-observer training, which shall include:
(1) Voter rights and responsibilities.
(2) Distribution of sample ballots.
(3) Election observer rights and responsibilities.
(l) To reimburse counties for the cost of the annual
training required under this section.
(m) To create and maintain a tracking system for each
qualified mail-in or absentee ballot, the date on which an
elector's ballot is received and the date on which an elector's
ballot is pre-canvassed or canvassed.
(n) In addition to the requirements of 25 Pa.C.S. Ch. 15
(relating to changes in records), to seek a record of all deaths
among residents of this Commonwealth, and each month to compare
the records with the list of electors in the Statewide Uniform
Registry of Electors, and for any elector found to be deceased,
to notify the elector's county of residence to allow counties to
cancel the registration of a registered elector reported dead by
the Department of Health or other sources, including published
newspaper obituaries, letters testamentary or letters of
administration issued by the office of the register of wills to
cancel and remove registration of an elector, if the removals
are uniform, nondiscriminatory and in compliance with the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 (Public Law 89-110, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 et
seq.). Two weeks prior to a primary or election, the
notification shall be daily.
(o) In addition to the requirements of 25 Pa.C.S. Ch. 15, to
fully participate in the Electronic Registration Information
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Center and to utilize all available information received through
that system and through the National Change of Address system to
ensure the accuracy of the Statewide Uniform Registry of
Electors and the continued eligibility of all registered
electors in this Commonwealth.
(p) To provide uniform standards for the proper, accurate
and uniform implementation of drop boxes as provided by section
1306, including:
(1) Providing technical assistance to election directors in
the establishment of drop boxes.
(2) Publishing on the department's publicly accessible
Internet website the list of drop box locations in each county
and Statewide, at least 14 days prior to an election.
Section 2. Section 1306(a) introductory paragraph of the
act, amended March 27, 2020 (P.L.41, No.12), is amended and the
section is amended by adding a subsection to read:
Section 1306. Voting by Absentee Electors.--(a) Except as
provided in paragraphs (2) and (3), at any time after receiving
an official absentee ballot, but on or before eight o'clock P.M.
the day of the primary or election, the elector shall, in
secret, proceed to mark the ballot only in black lead pencil,
indelible pencil or blue, black or blue-black ink, in fountain
pen or ball point pen, and then fold the ballot, enclose and
securely seal the same in the envelope on which is printed,
stamped or endorsed "Official Election Ballot." This envelope
shall then be placed in the second one, on which is printed the
form of declaration of the elector, and the address of the
elector's county board of election and the local election
district of the elector. The elector shall then fill out, date
and sign the declaration printed on such envelope. [Such
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envelope shall then be securely sealed and the elector shall
send same by mail, postage prepaid, except where franked, or
deliver it in person to said county board of election.]
* * *
(a.1) At any time after receiving an official absentee
ballot, on or before eight o'clock P.M. the day of the primary
or election, the mail-in elector shall, in secret, proceed to
make the ballot only in black lead pencil, indelible pencil or
blue, black or blue-black ink, in fountain pen or ball point
pen, and then fold the ballot, enclose and securely seal the
ballot in the envelope on which is printed, stamped or endorsed
"Official Election Ballot." The envelope shall then be placed in
the second one, on which is printed the form of declaration of
the elector, and the address of the elector's county board of
election and the local election district of the elector. The
elector shall then fill out, date and sign the declaration
printed on the envelope. The envelope shall then be securely
sealed and the elector shall return the completed absentee
ballot by one of the following methods only:
(1) Delivery through the United States Postal Service to the
offices of his or her county board of elections.
(2) Delivery in person to the offices of his or her county
board of elections during its regular hours of operation.
(3) Delivery to a ballot drop box that may be established by
a county board of elections as necessary. The following shall
apply:
(i) Ballot drop boxes shall be monitored during each hour of
operation. If monitored by video recording, the recording must
be made available for public inspection upon the completion of
the count and tabulation of the votes cast and in accordance
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with the act of February 14, 2008 (P.L.6, No.3), known as the
Right-to-Know Law, and retained for a period of two years.
(ii) Ballots returned to a drop box location established
under this section shall be promptly collected and secured each
evening after eight o'clock P.M., or immediately upon being
closed for the day, whichever is earlier.
(iii) Each ballot drop box location intended to be
established in an election must be publicly announced at least
thirty days prior to establishment in accordance with 65 Pa.C.S.
(relating to public officers).
(iv) Each ballot drop box shall be considered a polling
place for the requirements of this act, including accessibility,
access of observers and restriction of political activity.
(v) Ballot drop boxes must be established at a fixed
location for the duration of an election.
* * *
Section 3. Section 1308(g)(1.1) and (2) of the act, amended
March 27, 2020 (P.L.41, No.12), are amended and the subsection
is amended by adding a paragraph to read:
Section 1308. Canvassing of Official Absentee Ballots and
Mail-in Ballots.--* * *
(g) * * *
(1.1) The county board of elections shall meet [no earlier
than seven o'clock A.M. on election day] at least once before
election day at the county courthouse or the offices of the
county board of elections to pre-canvass all ballots received
prior to the meeting.
(1.2) A county board of elections that meets to pre-canvass
absentee ballots and mail-in ballots may begin the tasks
described in paragraph (4)(i), (ii) and (iii) after eight
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o'clock A.M. the Saturday before the election. A county board of
elections shall provide at least forty-eight hours' notice of a
pre-canvass meeting by publicly posting a notice of a pre-
canvass meeting on its publicly accessible Internet website. One
authorized representative of each candidate in an election and
one representative from each political party shall be permitted
to remain in the room in which the absentee ballots and mail-in
ballots are pre-canvassed. No person observing, attending or
participating in a pre-canvass meeting may disclose the results
of any portion of any pre-canvass meeting prior to the close of
the polls. The proceedings of the pre-canvassing shall be live-
streamed for public viewing and the individuals allowed to watch
the pre-canvassing shall be permitted to be in an area which is
within audio range and has a clear line of sight to view the
proceedings.
(2) The county board of elections shall meet no earlier than
the close of polls on the day of the election and no later than
the third day following the election to begin canvassing
absentee ballots and mail-in ballots not included in the pre-
canvass meeting. The meeting under this paragraph shall continue
until all absentee ballots and mail-in ballots received prior to
the close of the polls have been canvassed. The county board of
elections shall not record or publish any votes reflected on the
ballots prior to the close of the polls. The canvass process
shall continue through the eighth day following the election for
valid military-overseas ballots timely received under 25 Pa.C.S.
§ 3511 (relating to receipt of voted ballot). A county board of
elections shall provide at least forty-eight hours' notice of a
canvass meeting by publicly posting a notice on its publicly
accessible Internet website. One authorized representative of
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each candidate in an election and one representative from each
political party shall be permitted to remain in the room in
which the absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are canvassed.
The proceedings of the canvassing shall be live-streamed for
public viewing and the individuals allowed to watch the
canvassing shall be permitted to be in an area which is within
audio range and has a clear line of sight to view the
proceedings.
* * *
Section 4. Section 1302-D(g)(1), amended March 27, 2020
(P.L.41, No.12), is amended to read:
Section 1302-D. Applications for official mail-in ballots.
* * *
(g) Permanent mail-in voting list.--
(1) [Any qualified registered elector may request to be
placed on a permanent mail-in ballot list file at any time
during the calendar year. A mail-in ballot application shall
be mailed to every person otherwise eligible to receive a
mail-in ballot application by the first Monday in February
each year or within 48 hours of receipt of the request,
whichever is later, so long as the person does not lose the
person's voting rights by failure to vote as otherwise
required by this act. A mail-in ballot application mailed to
an elector under this section, which is completed and timely
returned by the elector, shall serve as an application for
any and all primary, general or special elections to be held
in the remainder of that calendar year and for all special
elections to be held before the third Monday in February of
the succeeding year.] Neither the department nor the county
shall maintain a permanent mail-in voting list. A qualified
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elector must separately request a mail-in ballot for each
election in which the qualified elector chooses to vote by
mail, including for each election held within the same
calendar year.
* * *
Section 5. Section 1302.1-D(a) of the act is amended to
read:
Section 1302.1-D. Date of application for mail-in ballot.
(a) General rule.--Applications for mail-in ballots shall be
received in the office of the county board of elections not
earlier than 50 days and not later than 14 days before the
primary or election, except [that]:
(1) That if a county board of elections determines that
it would be appropriate to the county board of elections'
operational needs, any applications for mail-in ballots
received more than 50 days before the primary or election may
be processed before that time. [Applications for mail-in
ballots shall be processed if received not later than five
o'clock P.M. of the first Tuesday prior to the day of any
primary or election.]
(2) A voter who presents the voter's own application for
an absentee or mail-in ballot within the office of the county
board of elections during regular business hours may request
to receive the voter's absentee or mail-in ballot while the
voter is at the office. The request may be made orally or in
writing but no later than five o'clock P.M. of the first
Tuesday prior to the day of a primary or election. Upon
presentation of the application and the making of the request
and upon approval under sections 1302.2 or 1302.2-D, the
county board of elections shall promptly present the voter
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with the voter's absentee or mail-in ballot. If a voter
presents the voter's application within the county board of
election's office in accordance with this section, a county
board of elections may not deny the voter's request to have
the ballot presented to the voter while the voter is at the
office unless there is a bona fide objection to the absentee
or mail-in ballot application.
* * *
Section 6. Section 1306-D(a) of the act, amended March 27,
2020 (P.L.41, No.12), is amended to read:
Section 1306-D. Voting by mail-in electors.
(a) General rule.--At any time after receiving an official
mail-in ballot, but on or before eight o'clock P.M. the day of
the primary or election, the mail-in elector shall, in secret,
proceed to mark the ballot only in black lead pencil, indelible
pencil or blue, black or blue-black ink, in fountain pen or ball
point pen, and then fold the ballot, enclose and securely seal
the same in the envelope on which is printed, stamped or
endorsed "Official Election Ballot." This envelope shall then be
placed in the second one, on which is printed the form of
declaration of the elector, and the address of the elector's
county board of election and the local election district of the
elector. The elector shall then fill out, date and sign the
declaration printed on such envelope. Such envelope shall then
be securely sealed and the elector shall [send same by mail,
postage prepaid, except where franked, or deliver it in person
to said county board of election.] return the completed mail-in
ballot by one of the methods only as provided in section 1306.
* * *
Section 7. This act shall take effect as follows:
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(1) The addition of section 201(m) of the act shall take
effect January 1, 2023.
(2) The remainder of this act shall take effect
immediately.
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