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Counties urged to start pre-canvassing on time

Seven plan to begin processing ballots Nov. 4

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has been prodding election officials in seven counties to begin pre-canvassing mail-in ballots on Election Day, rather than waiting until the day after, as officials in those counties have indicated they intend to do.

Blair County is not among those who will delay, according to Elections Director Sarah Seymour.

“We will start pre-canvassing on Election Day at 8 a.m. and are expected to go through to about 10 p.m.,” Seymour said in a voicemail.

The Department of State wants the removal of mail-in ballots from their outer and inner envelopes to begin as soon as permissible — 7 a.m. Election Day — so results won’t be any later than they need to be, given a deluge of mail-ins.

A total of 3.9 million mail-in or absentee ballots have been approved and 2.2 million — 73 percent — have been returned and “uploaded” by election offices already, Boockvar said Friday in a Zoom call with reporters.

Most of the counties that don’t plan to begin pre-canvassing on Election Day are “quite small,” Boockvar said.

Cumberland County, with 253,000 people, is the largest. Some of those counties that plan to delay have alleged they lack resources to begin pre-canvassing Election Day, so they must focus on in-person voting, Boockvar said. But they’ve had — and still have — access to federal and foundation grant money, she said. “I’m going to highly urge (that Election Day pre-canvassing) happen,” Boockvar stated.

Many counties — including all eight of the largest ones — are planning to count mail-in ballots around the clock, once actual tabulation can begin, following the close of the polls, according to Boockvar.

People who have received mail-in ballots or who are still expecting them should not mail them, but take them in person to their county election offices or to drop-off boxes, Boockvar said. It’s too late to risk mailing them, she said.

“(In-person drop-off) is the only way to make sure,” she said. “Don’t gamble with your vote.”

The state Supreme Court ruled weeks ago that ballots postmarked by Election Day — or credibly presumed to have been mailed by Election Day — should be counted, even if it takes until Friday for them to arrive.

But that three-day grace period may be in doubt, given recent comments by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court left the grace period in place with a tie vote on a challenge about a week ago, then declined to take up the issue upon a second challenge this week.

But the court left open the possibility that it might rule after Election Day, which has led Boockvar to order counties to segregate ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. Election Day from the other mail-in ballots.

If a voter realizes they did something wrong, they can go in person to their polling place on Election Day and cast a provisional ballot, which would count only if their mail-in ballot was done improperly.

Voters who get a mail-in ballot but decide to vote in person on Election Day must take all components of their mail-in ballot with them to the polling place to be destroyed.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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