Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday urged the legislature to quickly pass his voting reform plan that would require counties to start sending mail-in ballots at least 28 days before the election, prepare returned ballots for tallying sooner, and count eligible ballots postmarked by election day and received by the following Friday.
“These proposed reforms will further strengthen our elections, help people to vote safely from home, and assist counties in processing the surge in mail-in ballots,” said Wolf.
Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly embraced mail-in voting during the primary in June, with nearly 1.5 million voters casting a mail-in or absentee ballot, more than half of all votes cast.
Based on experience in the primary, Wolf called on the legislature to take immediate action on election improvements including:
- Allowing counties to start pre-canvassing ballots 21 days before the election rather than at 7 a.m. election day to make vote counting faster. Pre-canvassing involves counties scanning and verifying the ballot envelope, matching the voter’s signature to voter rolls, opening the mail and secrecy envelopes, and removing and scanning the ballot. Counties would not tabulate or report vote totals until polls close at 8 p.m. on election day.
- Allowing counties to count eligible ballots postmarked by election day and received by the Friday following election day to ensure that all ballots mailed by the deadline are counted.
- Requiring counties to start sending mail-in ballots at least 28 days before the election rather than 14 days as currently required. The change ensures voters who apply early will have at least four weeks to receive and return their ballot.
- Providing counties flexibility to appoint poll workers to vacant positions earlier than five days before an election. More poll workers are still needed, and the Department of State is encouraging businesses, colleges and organizations to reach out to their county elections office and volunteer at their local precincts.
The governor also reminded voters that the best way to make sure their vote is counted is to sign up now for a mail-in ballot and return it well before the Nov. 3 election.
Eligible voters may apply for their mail-in or absentee ballot online at votespa.com, in person at their county election offices, or by paper forms submitted by mail. Once the county determines the voter is eligible, counties will send the voter a ballot with return postage paid by the Department of State, so casting a ballot is free to voters.
Voters have several convenient options to return their ballot by mail, in person at their county election office or at drop boxes, which many counties expect to provide.
Voters may register to vote and apply for their mail-in or absentee ballot online, in person at their county election offices, or by paper forms submitted by mail. The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 19. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27.