Faster results on election night and fewer logjams for county workers on Election Day: Counties say that could happen if they got more time to “pre-canvass” ballots. But lawmakers have to sign off on it.
For weeks now, mail ballots have been placed in dropboxes or delivered to county election offices. But counties can’t even start opening outer envelopes and preparing ballots to be counted until polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
“I’m glad to have it out of the way,” said Diana Holmes-Phoenix, of Dauphin Boro.
Holmes-Phoenix was among the voters who dropped off their mail ballot at the county election office on Monday. She likes the convenience but doesn’t understand why county election workers have to wait until Election Day to open outer envelopes.
“Next year is going to be a big election, and I think that something definitely needs to be done before then,” Holmes-Phoenix said.
Counties have asked the legislature to let them begin pre-canvassing in the days before an election, potentially helping larger counties with huge turnout or smaller counties with fewer resources report results for statewide races more quickly.
Although many county election directors expect results to be tabulated efficiently on Tuesday, larger elections like the 2024 presidential race are expected to bring out much larger turnout and volume of mail ballots.
In Cumberland County, mail ballots will be pre-canvassed by hand Tuesday morning. But county elections chief Bethany Salzarulo said starting earlier would give the county more flexibility and potentially alert staff to big problems, like misprinted ballots in Lancaster County last year.
“If you end up having to hand count, the sooner you know that and the sooner you can prepare for that, the better,” Salzarulo said.
House Democrats have been advancing a bill to give counties seven days to pre-canvass. It faces opposition from some Republican lawmakers, though, who question if it’s necessary, especially because many counties got state money to help them get results out faster.