Democrats advance election bill in Pennsylvania long sought by counties to process ballots faster

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill long sought by counties seeking help to manage huge influxes of mail-in ballots during elections in the presidential battleground state and to avoid a repeat of 2020’s drawn-out vote count.

The bill comes barely six months before Pennsylvania could play a decisive role in selecting the next president in November’s election between Democratic President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, a Republican.


The bill passed on party lines, 102-99, as Democrats backed it and Republicans opposed it, warning that it would open the door to fraud. It faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, however.

Under the bill, county election workers could begin processing ballots up to seven days before Election Day.

Counties have sought that kind of a provision for years, even before 2020’s presidential election, to give them more time to process mail-in ballots and avoid a drawn-out post-election count.

Nearly every state allows time before Election Day for workers to process mail-in ballots. Currently, Pennsylvania doesn’t let counties begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania backed the bill, saying that having more time to process mail-in ballots before polls close — called “precanvassing” — will help them manage the workload and ensure quicker results.

“This simple change would significantly improve election administration without compromising ballot security,” Lisa Schaefer, the association’s executive director, said in a statement.

Schaefer asked the Republican-controlled Senate to quickly advance the bill to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk so that it can be implemented for November’s general election.

In the Senate, GOP Majority Leader Joe Pittman insisted Wednesday that Pennsylvania must toughen voter identification requirements as a companion to any legislation on election administration.

Democrats have opposed such a change, saying there is scant record of in-person voting fraud and that it will only prevent some registered voters from voting.

A surge in mail-in ballots in 2020’s presidential election shined a spotlight on Pennsylvania’s requirement after it took four days of counting for news agencies to project Biden as the winner of Pennsylvania, giving him the electoral votes necessary to win the White House.

However, Trump and his allies tried to exploit the days it took after polls closed to tabulate the millions of mail-in ballots to spread baseless conspiracy theories and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

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