(Photo: House Speaker Bryan Cutler | WITF)
After a brief window of hope that Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature would take up the mail ballot pre-canvassing bill again at the last minute, the bill is officially dead, with the legislature finishing out their last session day before Election Day on Wednesday with no action on county election officials’ top policy ask.
The bill would have allowed election officials to begin processing—but not scanning—mail ballots prior to Election Day, in order to speed up the vote counting and publish the final results sooner. Republicans and Democrats both mostly agreed with the idea in principle, differing only on the window of time that should be allowed.
Unfortunately, the bill became a bargaining chip that legislative Republicans wanted to use to extract some unrelated concessions that would generally reduce access to Pennsylvania’s new early mail-voting options. However, between Governor Wolf’s pledge to veto any bills reducing voting access, and then the PA Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court decisions reifying the policy status quo, Republicans’ leverage on these issues evaporated, but the majority was nonetheless unwilling in the end to pass the part that everybody generally agreed on.
In the absence of pre-canvassing authority, City Commissioners sources have put the endpoint for ballot counting sometime around the Friday night or Saturday after Election Day—not nearly as bad as the weeks-long count after the primary, but still completely unnecessary.
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