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A Democrat Bill To Process Mail Ballots Before Election Day Is Headed To Pennsylvania’s GOP-Run Senate

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After Pennsylvania House Democrats passed a bill that would allow mail-in ballots to be processed before Election Day, the bill heads to the Republican-led state Senate. A Republican Senate leader expressed concerns to The Federalist that the bill’s provisions would endanger “honest, transparent and secure elections.”

HB 847 was passed along party lines, 102-99, on Wednesday and would permit county election officials to begin opening and counting mail-in ballots and absentee ballots seven days before Election Day. The results would be tabulated on Election Day.

But Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee Sen. Cris Dush said in a statement to The Federalist that the Senate had previously rejected a similar pre-canvassing provision in March due to concerns of “pre-canvassing endangering honest, transparent and secure elections which remain the cornerstone of our Constitutional Republic.”

“Just like House Bill 847, this measure also failed to include proven election integrity safeguards such as constitutional Voter ID requirements or proof of citizenship for voter registration,” Dush continued. “With the next major election only months away, I will not commit to advancing any so-called election modification legislation that does not contain proven election integrity safeguards.”

Other Republicans also expressed concern about the legislation, with House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler saying the legislation would complicate election workers’ tasks since they would have to prepare for Election Day while also pre-canvassing, according to the Pennsylvania Capital Star.

“House Democrats pushing this bill forward today may make government easier for government, but it does not respond to what the vast majority of Pennsylvanians believe is needed to make our elections better and more secure,” Cutler said in a statement on Wednesday. Cutler said Democrats are refusing to advance other reforms like voter ID and signature verification despite widespread popular support.

Republicans also argue the proposed bill would make it easier for ballot counters to leak the results of mail voting early, which could manipulate voters’ decisions on Election Day. Democrats say the legislation prohibits such conduct. But as Republicans point out, there are no consequences for ballot counters or observers who disclose the results of mail-in ballots before in-person voting ends.

A bill with a similar pre-canvassing provision — but which also included a voter ID requirement — was passed in 2021 by the legislature but was vetoed by Democrat then-Gov. Tom Wolf over its voter ID section. The Keystone State drastically expanded its mail-in voting system in 2019 and saw an explosion of mail-in ballots during the 2020 election.


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