We write to you in our capacities as the Policy Committee co-chairs for the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan business and civic organization that has advocated for better government in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania since 1904.
Our board has applauded the accomplishments of the General Assembly over the past year in making historic strides forward to modernize the Commonwealth’s 1937 Election Code. Act 77 of 2019 and Act 12 of 2020 were each passed with strong bipartisan support and, by the end of the upcoming election, will have enabled millions of Pennsylvanians to safely and securely cast ballots amid the global pandemic.
But with November 3 less than three weeks away, the one policy that would materially aid our county officials in administering this election is the ability to pre-canvass absentee and mail-in ballots prior to polls opening. Extracting thousands of ballots from the secrecy and declaration envelopes in which they were returned and unfolding those ballots to prepare for high-speed scanning is time and labor intensive, even with special equipment. Counties are making plans to begin this work at 7 AM on Election Day as the law currently allows, and some will have to continue 24 hours a day until ballot extraction, scanning, and tabulation is complete.
We and our fellow board members are most concerned about this period of time when the entire country may be waiting for Pennsylvania, and our counties and their dedicated election officials are unnecessarily subjected to intense scrutiny and pressure. Numerous other states process mail-in ballots before Election Day without issue, and we have found no evidence that additional pre-canvass time would do anything but relieve some of the stress on our election directors and their staff. This is why the county commissioners have been calling for this change for months, as has Seventy and the bipartisan VoteSafe PA coalition.
Pennsylvanians do not want to endure an Election Week or longer when results could be known on Tuesday. We urge you to authorize counties with the time they need.
George S. Hasenecz
Senior Vice President, Brandywine Realty Trust
Howard J. Davis, Esquire
Partner, Kleinbard LLC
Cc Michael R. Stiles, Esquire
Chair, Committee of Seventy
President and CEO, Committee of Seventy
*This letter was also sent electronically to members of the Pennsylvania House on October 16.