Pa Dems Push for Pre-Canvassing, Republicans Say More Is Needed for Election Improvements

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – In just under eight weeks, voters across Pennsylvania will cast their ballots for some high-profile races, if they haven’t already done so with a mail-in or absentee ballot.

In Harrisburg, both parties each have their long-list of election improvements they hope to accomplish before then, like the pre-canvassing of mail-in and absentee ballots.

“We recognized shortly after the Republican-controlled legislature passed Act 77 in 2019 that there were some substantial issues when it comes to counting the ballots in an expeditious manner. We all agree, Democrats and Republicans both in the house and Senate, that pre-canvasing needs to be addressed,” said Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie). “It’s what every county election office in all 67 counties wants, and has asked for,” he added.

Bizzarro says the pre-canvasing of mail-in and absentees would give counties the ability to prepare the ballots before they’re counted on Election Day.

“This is a commonsense, no-brainer solution. We can allow these elections offices to open these ballots in a timely fashion, and we can get election results sooner,” said Bizzarro.

Bizzarro says Democrats have sponsored legislation to allow pre-canvasing, but Republicans have refused to run it.

“We are simply looking to run a clean pre-canvass bill through the legislature and help the folks in all 67 counties count these ballots in an expeditious manner, not a bill that has a whole bunch of different ideological bills on there that promote voter suppression,” said Bizzarro. “The majority party who has been in control for the better part of 30 years in Pennsylvania has refused to run the bill and they refuse to help counties,” he added.

Republicans say pre-canvasing is not the silver bullet for election improvements. Instead, they say they’re focused on a more comprehensive approach.

“So, we want to make sure that the system is locked down, we have tight security in the mail in process, and then we can move forward with pre-canvassing,” said House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove (R-York).

Grove says pre-canvasing was included in a comprehensive elections bill, passed by the General Assembly, but vetoed by Governor Wolf last year.

“We did pass pre-canvassing in House Bill 1300, which the Governor ended up vetoing without reading it,” said Grove, who added that a clean pre-canvasing bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. “A standalone bill will not pass the General Assembly. We have too many questions on security and mail-in ballots, particularly around drop boxes.”

In addition to focusing on security, Grove says oversight is paramount for the State Government Committee.

“Number one, I want to prioritize oversight on my committee this year, specifically after elections and before elections. What’s happening, how are they preparing, what occurred during the last election, what are they doing to correct those issues,” said Grove.

Officials say some winners may not be decided on election night because of the mail-in and absentee ballot counting process, as was the case in previous elections. Rep. Bizzarro believes allowing pre-canvassing would solve that issue.

“I think it’s important for folks to know that, more than likely, the winners of these elections will not be decided the night of the general election. We’ll be waiting a day or two after, or maybe even a little longer, but we could solve this if we allowed pre-canvasing,” said Bizzarro.

House lawmakers have only six-more legislative session days before the general election on Nov 8.


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