CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Commissioners on Tuesday sent a letter to the county’s state senators and representatives as well as Gov. Tom Wolf calling for “speedy action” to amend election law.
The complete letter is below.
It is with great urgency that we write you all asking for speedy action to amend Act 77. As I’m sure you recall, you all you voted for (and signed) this act less than 12 months ago.
It was commendable that every single state legislator representing our county voted in favor of the final bill. For a state with outdated voting laws, it was long overdue and a welcome step forward, and we thank you all for making it happen; this was truly bi-partisan governing at its best.
None of you could have foreseen the COVID pandemic and the havoc it wrought on our primary election. We believe that everyone involved did a great job getting through that situation, but we all learned some hard lessons about the unintended consequences of Act 77.
In particular, the requirement to not open mail-in/absentee ballot envelopes until Election Day proved problematic. Many counties simply didn’t deal with those ballots until later in the week.
Here in Clearfield County, we spent 13 hours working on them that day, which overstressed our staff and kept the Election Board unavailable to deal with other issues. With even more mail-in ballots expected this fall, we simply cannot process those ballots on Nov. 3 without legislative relief.
Both the legislature and the governor have acknowledged the need for pre-canvassing those ballots, to ensure timely result reporting. The governor has asked for three weeks, the legislature has offered three days.
As usual, we believe the best answer lies in the middle; we surely do not need three weeks, but keep in mind three days would have us working over the weekend (and incurring serious overtime costs for our staff).
We respectfully suggest one week for pre-canvassing. This gives us ample time to prepare (but not tabulate!) the ballots for scanning, assuring that we will have accurate results available the evening of Election Day.
The governor is also asking for mail-in votes to count if they are postmarked by Nov. 3, received by Nov. 6. We respectfully disagree, for the same reasons expressed above.
We need accurate results the night of Nov. 3, allowing ballots to ‘trickle in’ all week could potentially delay the release of accurate results.
We know there are other issues of disagreement regarding potential amendments to Act 77 – including the use of drop boxes, the deadline to apply for a mail-in/absentee ballot and the use of poll workers from outside their home precinct.
These are all important debates, but frankly none of them are as important to timely results as the pre-canvassing window. We are asking the legislature to deliberate on a separate pre-canvassing bill for deliberation, and we are asking the governor to sign it immediately once it is on his desk.
This year, the voters of Pennsylvania – and indeed the nation – deserve accurate results on election night. Having 20-40 percent of the votes uncounted that evening could cause confusion and result in a lingering uncertainty well past Election Day.
Election Boards across PA aren’t asking for equipment, or money – we are simply asking for the time to do this job properly. Please give us that time via pre-canvassing mailed ballots.
Clearfield County Commissioners
Clearfield County Election Board