PA House passes a bill to allow counties to engage in early canvassing of mail-in votes

May 2 – Earlier this week the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania passed a bill along party lines to give counties the permission to engage in early canvassing of mail-in votes. 

Under the current law, counties cannot open and flatten out mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll pointed out, “The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, CCAP, they’ve been screaming for years this is not a workable law and it’s why we’re not getting election results in a timely manner on election night. They want to have the ability to at least have the ballots ready to count a few days early.”

The House bill from yesterday would allow seven days of pre-election canvassing. 

Barkdoll said, “Meaning just opening the envelopes and flattening the ballots. No counting that would go on. This will now go to the PA Senate. It doesn’t look like the support is in the Senate to pass it. A couple of Senators on the record yesterday said they would support this if voter ID becomes part of it as well. So we’ll see where this goes.”

If nothing changes, it could still affect getting timely results on election night. 

Barkdoll said, “Interestingly, also yesterday, Donald Trump posted on Truth Social, he’s now urging people to engage in early voting and vote by mail. We know the Republicans are recognizing they’ve got a problem with this. This is sort of his first overture openly encouraging people to do it. It’s also now being reported that Donald Trump Jr., is doing ads targeted to Republican voters telling them to vote early and to consider voting by mail. We talked in the spring, that group that targeted Republican voters in Pennsylvania, they spent one and a half million dollars on primary Republican voters saying vote early and vote by mail. They announced yesterday they’re going to spend eight and a half million dollars in Pennsylvania for the November election again, targeted to Republicans for vote by mail in early voting. It’s a very interesting dynamic that’s going on.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “What’s the big deal? Why is this such a big deal to just open up the envelopes and flatten the darn things out ahead of making the count? 

PA Representative Rob Kauffman explained, “Here’s one of the problems: as soon as you open that envelope and separate it from the ballot, it’s over. That ballot’s getting counted because we no longer have a track of where that ballot came from. There is no reason. We have seen it effectively done now. They start the counting in the morning and they continuously count, they continuously tally these ballots throughout the day. It has been done effectively county after county. We’ve provided some election integrity funding to make sure it’s done. The ability to get in those ballots a week ahead of time simply opens the door to nefarious actors. Here in Franklin County, I have the greatest confidence in the folks who run our elections. I think you know, we don’t have to worry about Franklin County elections, but we’ve seen in counties red and blue across the state where they’ve had glitches here, glitches there and very frankly, when you open this up seven days ahead of time, I don’t like it and I don’t think Pennsylvanians want anything else that calls into question the balloting. There was nothing in here that would require ballots to be counted continuously. We would likely still see that pregnant pause that caused us so much trouble in 2020. So the desire for election integrity is absent in this bill. It simply opens the door for more questions and that is our concern.”