HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the legislature to quickly pass his plan that he says will make elections safer and more secure.
He says 1.5 million people have signed up to vote by mail, along with 200,000 people already signed up for absentee ballots.READ MORE: Local Police Departments Team Up To Enforce Pedestrian Traffic Laws
“I think we were successful in our primary election,” Gov. Wolf said Thursday afternoon. “It showed that we were right to have confidence in our voting system, but I think there are some changes that still need to be made that could make a good system even better.”
Based on experiences in the primary, he’s calling on the legislature to take “immediate action.”
He wants to allow counties to start pre-canvassing ballots — which includes scanning and verifying ballot envelopes, matching signatures, opening mail and scanning the ballot — 21 days before the election instead of at 7 a.m. on election day. This is meant to make vote counting faster. Counties wouldn’t be allowed to tabulate or report vote totals until polls close on election day.
Sam DeMarco, A Republican member of the Allegheny County Elections Board says he doesn’t support pre-canvassing three weeks before the election. He says there’s no way to ensure those ballots are secure.
“There’s no way to ensure that those are the ones that came out of the envelope. How does someone guard those for 21 days?” said DeMarco.
The governor also wants counties to count ballots that are postmarked by election day and received by the Friday after election day as well as require counties to start sending out mail-in ballots at least 28 days before the election instead of the current requirement of two weeks.
DeMarco doesn’t agree with counting ballots up to three days after the election.
“There’s a reason we call it Election Day,” says DeMarco. “They have 50 days before election day to vote by mail. They don’t need to prolong any further.”
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Finally, Gov. Wolf is calling on legislature to give counties flexibility to appoint poll workers to vacant positions earlier than five days before the election.
“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.”
While Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, was holding a press conference about his plan for elections, the House Republicans released a statement about his proposals.
It reads in full:
“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.”
DeMarco said mail-in ballots for Allegheny County will be sent out to voters starting on Sept. 14 pending litigation, but he’s hopeful they’ll be ready by then.
The voter registration deadline for Nov. 3 is Oct. 19. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27.MORE NEWS: Pennsylvania Ending Extended Jobless Benefits, Unemployment Rate Falls Below 5%
Polling places will be open in all counties from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those who want to vote in-person.