Pennsylvania House Democrats Pass Bill To Allow Mail-in Vote Count To Start Earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pennsylvania House Democrats passed a bill yesterday that would allow election officials to begin counting mail-in ballots seven days before an election.

“We need to ensure that Pennsylvania does not become a national embarrassment on Election Day,” state Rep. Scott Conklin (D) said in a memo. He noted that officials would be able to open, inspect and count ballots, but not publish the results before Election Day.

Currently, in Pennsylvania, the election officials can’t start counting absentee and mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Conklin, the prime sponsor of House Bill 847, continued in his memo that more people are voting via mail now, so counting ballots and releasing election results is taking significantly longer, and he expects this trend to continue into the 2024 election and beyond. 

He stated that delays in results can lead to “voter suspicion and unfounded conspiracies” and that  allowing election officials to tabulate votes earlier would “significantly expedite” the release of results and mitigate this issue.

This follows the events after the 2020 election when it took Pennsylvania four days before projecting President Joe Biden as the winner in the state.

The bill passed the House with a 102-99 vote, split along party lines. Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) expressed his support for the bill in a post on X, urging the Republican-controlled Senate to pass the legislation.

“Republican and Democratic county election officials have been calling on the Legislature to allow pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots for years — and I’m glad to see the House take this commonsense step today,” Shapiro applauded. “I hope the Senate will follow suit and send this simple, bipartisan reform to improve our elections to my desk so I can sign it into law,” Shapiro continued.

The House’s Republican Caucus released a statement yesterday opposing the bill, claiming that it’s “amongst the least supported election reforms.” Republican Leader Bryan Cutler said there are more important election reforms that need to be passed, like requiring voter identification and signature verification.

Pennsylvania’s legislative session concludes at the end of June, so the bill would need to pass the Senate by then to go into effect for the 2024 election.

Read the bill here.