Submitted by Lisa Schaefer, Executive Director, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
For the past several months, counties have been pleading with the General Assembly and administration to change the state’s election laws that would allow counties to begin pre-canvassing absentee and mail-in ballots before Election Day. As there are now no more legislative session days scheduled before November 3, it appears these pleas will go unanswered for this election, depriving counties of valuable time to take care of manual tasks that would have helped us have as many votes as possible counted on election night.
Therefore, counties in Pennsylvania today are now pleading with voters, candidates and the media to be patient regarding the timeline for completion of election results, because state law continues to only allow counties to begin pre-canvassing starting at 7 a.m. on Election Day. That time-consuming process involves verifying the voter’s information, opening two envelopes for every ballot and preparing the ballots to be scanned – all while administering an in-person election on the same day.
Nearly three million applications for mail-in ballots had been received a week prior to the application deadline of October 27. These sheer numbers make it highly unlikely that counties will be able to complete processing and counting of all mail-in ballots on Election Day, and thus highly unlikely that Pennsylvania will have complete results that night. In fact, based on counties’ experience in the June primary, it could take at least several days before results are known, especially in close races.
Let me emphasize – if Pennsylvania does not have complete results on election night, or if it appears that results are changing in the days afterward, it is not because there is anything wrong with the election results, or the process, or because it indicates fraud of any sort. It’s simply the sheer volume of processing and counting all the ballots.
While counties also wish to have complete results on election night, our first priority is to run a fair, secure and accurate election. If it takes days or even weeks to accomplish that, counties will not sacrifice the integrity of the election in favor of speed.
Elections are one of many critical services that counties provide to residents and we will continue to uphold our responsibility as the stewards of our democracy. Your vote will count – it just may take a little longer than we all would have liked.
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) is the voice of county government; a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. CCAP members include county commissioners, council members, county executives, administrators, chief clerks and solicitors.
County governments are responsible for a wide variety of critical services, including provision of human services (i.e., mental health, intellectual disabilities, juvenile justice, children and youth, long-term care, drug and alcohol services, housing) to people in need in our communities. In addition, counties are responsible for emergency management and 911 services, administration of the courts and corrections system, elections, maintenance of county bridges, and the county property assessment rolls, and are also involved in environmental and land use planning, protection of open space and community and economic development.
CCAP strengthens the counties’ abilities to govern their own affairs and improve the well-being and quality of life for every Pennsylvania resident. It advocates for favorable state and federal legislation, programs and policies on behalf of counties. CCAP is committed to service excellence through education, information, insurance, technology and other programs that support effective county government. Founded in 1886, CCAP is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties.