Date Posted:Thursday, January 14, 2021

Counties Call for Election Reforms Based on 2020 Experience

Details:

Renewed ask for expanded pre-canvassing, extension of mail-in application list, are top priorities​

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) today released its preliminary report and recommendations outlining county priorities for further Election Code reforms, and strongly urged the General Assembly and administration to work together closely with counties to create positive, effective election policy. 

“Despite the challenges of 2020 – including implementation of Act 77 and administering elections in the middle of a global pandemic – counties continued to uphold their responsibility to deliver fair, secure and successful elections,” said Butler County commissioner and 2021 CCAP President Kevin Boozel. “But counties have also learned a great deal from our experiences on the front lines, and we have identified a number of areas where we can work with the General Assembly and administration to improve the Election Code and our elections processes.” 

As their top priority for 20​
21, counties are renewing their call to allow counties additional time to pre-canvass mail-in ballots, and to move the deadline for mail-in ballot applications back to 15 days prior to an election in conjunction with the voter registration deadline.

“These two priorities alone could resolve a significant portion of the challenges counties experienced in 2020,” said Indiana County commissioner and CCAP Elections Reform Committee chair Sherene Hess.

Counties raised concerns for months prior to the November election that if they were unable to begin processing the expected volume of absentee and mail-in ballots before Election Day, they would have very real challenges in providing the timely results they knew would be sought, especially in a highly contested and highly visible presidential election. And unfortunately, a
s predicted it took several days for the millions of mail-in ballots to be counted, delaying election results and causing confusion despite counties’ best efforts. Therefore, counties renew their call for legislation to allow pre-canvassing to begin prior to Election Day, thus allowing counties to focus on administering an in-person election on Election Day, improving workload management and allowing results to be available much more efficiently.

In addition, Act 77 permitted voters to apply for a mail-in ballot up to seven days before an election, which created timing challenges with the postal service. Many voters faced uncertainty about whether they would receive their ballot, or whether the county would receive their ballot in time. With postal delays and ongoing public health concerns, shifting this deadline to 15 days before an election offers the best opportunity to enfranchise our mail-in voters by offering more confidence that ballots will be able to make it from the county to the voter and back again.

Boozel and Hess noted that in addition to these two priority issues, counties seek meaningful reforms that can address other issues that arose during the 2020 elections, including
additional Election Code amendments, particularly to clarify matters that became subjects of interpretation throughout various lawsuits, as well as administrative issues to be addressed with the state and recommendations related to county operations and administration.

“It is our responsibility to work together in the future to promote a smoother election process in support of our democracy,” said Hess. “Counties – as the entities that administer our elections – must be at the table for these conversations to help create language that is clear and easily understood and to identify upfront any potential challenges with implementation.”

“Running elections should be about making sure that our systems are secure and accurate and that our voters can have confidence that every properly cast vote will count,” added Boozel. “Every level of government has a stake in assuring our elections are secure, fair and accurate, and we look forward to working with our state partners on this important topic.”

Visit here to read the full report.

 ​###

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 issues, 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.
For more information about Pennsylvania counties and CCAP, log on to www.pacounties.org and visit CCAP’s Twitter page @PACountiesGR.