DOYLESTOWN, PA – In the midst of the chaos from a pandemic that shows no signs of ending soon, 2020 has been plagued with racial discord, hardened political divisions and questions about the legitimacy of mail-in balloting from the White House.
Adding to that, every Pennsylvania voter can cast their ballot by mail for this election and many are expected to choose that route, because of the pandemic.
This makes the job of prepping for Election Day even more complex than usual on the local level, as community leaders throughout the state struggle to find a way to effectively run an election in a pandemic that has already claimed at least 210,000 American lives.
Concern is high that there will be problems and delays with the counts of absentee ballots “for days or even weeks” after November 3, wrote Bucks County commissioners Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Gene DiGirolamo and Robert Harvie. In their October 1 letter, they implored Gov. Tom Wolf and state legislators to come up with legislation to allow election boards an earlier date to begin counting mail-in ballots, preferably “at least a week before.”
“Current law does not permit the Board to pre-canvass (count the mail-in ballots) until 7 a.m. on Election Day,” county supervisors wrote to Gov. Wolf, along with state representatives Bryan Cutler and Frank Dermody and state senators Joseph Scarnati and Jay Costa. “And because of this limitation, it is all but guaranteed that Bucks County will not be able to deliver results on November 3rd.”
The other end of these ballot concerns is that voting misdeeds might go unnoticed with so many voters using the mail-in form.
In Montgomery County, where 11 drop-off ballot locations became operational Saturday (October 3), with four more satellite locations slated for this coming Saturday (October 10), county District Attorney Kevin Steele established a tip line for reporting suspicious activity around ballot boxes as well as election issues on Nov. 3rd.
“Anyone who sees someone attempting to break into the boxes, deliver multiple ballots, damaging the boxes or otherwise doing something suspicious or criminal is asked to immediately call the Election Tip Line,” wrote Steele in a press release over the weekend.
The Montgomery County Election Tip Line: 610-292-2020.
The ballot drop-off locations are in the communities of Cheltenham, Conshohocken, Lansdale, Lower Merion, Norristown, Pottstown, Royersford, Skippack, Upper Dublin, Upper Frederick and Upper Moreland. Location addresses, instructions and hours for drop off can be found on the county’s website.
“I want to reassure Montgomery County residents that we will use all means to make certain we have a safe, secure and valid election here in Montgomery County, for both in-person voting on Election Day and for voting by dropping off completed paper ballots between now and Nov. 3,” wrote the district attorney. “If the facts and evidence warrant it, we will prosecute anyone who attempts to interfere with this election.”
The county plans to have a team of prosecutors and detectives, headed by First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann, available to respond to complaints, Steele said.
“This election season has been extremely contentious and discordant, with all sorts of rhetoric. There have been allegations that there will be election irregularities, and while we don’t expect any, we are ready to assist in protecting the integrity of our electoral system — as we do for every election.”
For Bucks County, the commissioners’ letter to Gov. Wolf expressed concern that without an earlier time frame to begin counting mail-in ballots, the anticipated delayed results mean voters “will lack confidence in the results, regardless of all of our efforts to maintain transparency and deliver a well-run election.”
“The most helpful action the General Assembly can take now in providing our citizens with a sense of security and confidence in the results is take immediate action to permit counties the ability to begin its pre-canvass process at least one week earlier,” commissioners wrote.
As of Monday afternoon, Larry King, director of the Bucks County Commissioners’ Office of Public Information, had not heard a response from state leaders.