Governor Wolf announces proposals for safe and secure elections

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Governor Tom Wolf is urging the legislature to quickly pass his plan for safe and secure elections that ensures voters will receive mail-in ballots early, have time to return them, and that counties will have the time they need to count the anticipated historic number of votes cast.

The governor also reminded voters that the best way to make sure their vote is counted is to sign up now for a mail-in ballot and return it well before the Nov. 3 election. 

“My administration continues to have great confidence in the state’s election system,” said Gov. Wolf. “Regardless of whether you cast your vote from the convenience of home with a mail-in ballot, or in person on election day, my administration has worked hard to ensure that every person has their voice heard and every vote is counted. These proposed reforms will further strengthen our elections, help people to vote safely from home, and assist counties in processing the surge in mail-in ballots.”

Governor Wolf called on the legislature to take immediate action on election improvements including:

  • Allowing counties to start pre-canvassing ballots 21 days before the election rather than at 7 a.m. election day to make vote counting faster. Pre-canvassing involves counties scanning and verifying the ballot envelope, matching the voter’s signature to voter rolls, opening the mail and secrecy envelopes, and removing and scanning the ballot. Counties would not tabulate or report vote totals until polls close at 8 p.m. on election day.
  • Allowing counties to count eligible ballots postmarked by election day and received by the Friday following election day to ensure that all ballots mailed by the deadline are counted.
  • Requiring counties to start sending mail-in ballots at least 28 days before the election rather than 14 days as currently required. The change ensures voters who apply early will have at least four weeks to receive and return their ballot.
  • Providing counties flexibility to appoint poll workers to vacant positions earlier than five days before an election. More poll workers are still needed, and the Department of State is encouraging businesses, colleges and organizations to reach out to their county elections office and volunteer at their local precincts. 

The governor made the announcement during a news conference at Ridgeway Community Church, which serves as a polling place in Dauphin County. The governor was joined by Centre County Commissioner Chair Michael Pipe.

“If you want to vote by mail, apply now and your county will send you a ballot as soon as it is finalized,” said Gov. Wolf. “When you receive your ballot, complete it and mail it back as soon as you can so your county gets it in plenty of time.”

Eligible voters may apply for their mail-in or absentee ballot online at votespa.com, in person at their county election offices, or by paper forms submitted by mail.

The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 19. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27.  Online application for mail-in and absentee ballots are available in Spanish. Pennsylvania is not automatically sending ballots to voters.

For voters who prefer to vote in person, polling places will be available in all counties on election day, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman made the following comment in response to Governor Wolf’s proposals:

“When the House of Representatives returns to session next week, we will consider legislation crafted using the Department of State’s report from that primary election that provides more options to voters to cast their ballots, enhances the security of the voting process, and maintains the integrity of our elections while ensuring accurate results are reported in a timely manner.

While we agree that changes must be made to our Election Code following the primary, it was the governor’s team who walked away from substantive discussions on reaching agreement on a  bill only to seek their politically-motivated changes in the courts and making an end-run around the Constitutional prerogative of the General Assembly to determine the time, place, and manner of elections.

As the House and Senate work together to advance needed changes to our election process that benefit the people of Pennsylvania —not the DNC or the Biden campaign—it is up to the governor to determine whether he will put political motivation aside and work with us, instead of against us, in reaching our shared goals.”

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