(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s elections have had some problems with mail-in ballots, and a state group is working on recommendations for how to clear up confusion and avoid political bias.
The Joint State Government Commission’s Pennsylvania Election Law Advisory Board met Monday as an information-gathering session to discuss ideas for a forthcoming report. Its morning session centered on mail-in ballots and pitfalls that have emerged in recent elections.
An August ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of mail-in ballots, but this does not resolve all election-related problems.
The goal of the advisory board has been to fix what can be done now, rather than assuming a permanent fix will be found.
“One of the things we need to do is look at the statute and figure out the ways that we can make it clearer so that those rule of law violations, which I don’t think can ever be eliminated but can be reduced – and then on the other side so that those opportunities the statute presents where nefarious persons could do nefarious things, and figure out how to manage those security issues so that people’s votes are protected when they vote,” Hursh said.
The board wants to offer some recommendations to fix existing issues, with a goal of presenting them to the General Assembly around January.
One fix to take pressure off election officials may be moving back the deadline to register for a mail-in ballot. The current law allows it seven days before the election, but getting mail-in ballots ready that close to an election can cause problems for staff. Instead, the recommendation may be to move the deadline to 15 days before the election.
More voter outreach is also on the agenda, especially deadlines for registration and voting.
“Educating people about how to vote properly seems to me to be a valid use of Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars,” Hursh said.
“A secrecy envelope should not be the determining factor whether or not we count a ballot,” said Lisa Deeley, chairwoman of the Philadelphia Commissioners Office.