(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) today, introduced Senate Bill 10, legislation to expand voter access, implement greater efficiencies within Pennsylvania’s voting process and maintain election security.
The bill expands upon the most significant Pennsylvania election reforms in 80 years, which were passed by the Legislature and signed into law last fall, according to Scarnati and Corman. Reforms in Senate Bill 10 will enact the majority of recommendations made by the Pennsylvania Department of State in its 2020 Primary Election Act 35 of 2020 Report. The improvements also address concerns raised by County Commissioners and local elections officials.
“The Legislature is responsible for ensuring that Pennsylvania has a system in place to hold fair and secure elections,” Scarnati stated. “As a result of COVID-19 and the challenges that the pandemic has caused across our state, it is clear that voting reforms are needed prior to the November election. We look forward to working with the House of Representatives and Wolf Administration to ensure these crucial reforms are in place for the upcoming election.”
“It doesn’t matter what the process is for casting a ballot if the results are in question,” Corman said. “The responsibility to ensure that trust in the election process lies solely within the legislative process. This bill will go a long way toward providing additional confidence in our election process and the results by taking steps needed to increase election access, accountability and security.”
Senate Bill 10 takes several important steps to help guarantee that Pennsylvania elections remain fair, accessible and secure, including:
- Mail-in & Absentee Ballot Signature Verification – Requires counties to contact a voter to affirm their ballot if their signature on file and ballot signature do not match, ensuring all lawfully cast ballots are counted.
- Pre-Canvassing – Allows counties to open mail-in and absentee ballots up to three days prior to the election. Counties may begin pre-canvassing at 8 a.m. the Saturday prior to an election. Pre-canvassing is permitted on all ballots received up through the day before the election. Ballots may be removed from the outer and inner envelopes, flattened and scanned, but results may not be tabulated.
- Poll Watchers – Expands the region in which poll watchers may serve from county to statewide.
- Poll Workers – Increases the area that a poll worker may serve from their home election district to any voting location in the same county.
- Providing Voters with Ballots Earlier – Changes the county deadline to start sending mail-in and absentee ballots to voters to 28 days ahead of the election. The previous deadline was 14 days.
- Mail-In and Absentee Ballot Application Deadline – Moves the application deadline to request a ballot to 15 days prior to an election, which is the same deadline as voter registration. (This change does not affect emergency absentee ballots). This measure, as well as providing voters with ballots earlier, will provide more time for the U.S. Postal Service to process mail and to ensure that ballots are received back at the county in time and appropriately counted.
- New Secure Return Locations – Creates the ability for counties to establish secured locations for the return of ballots at the County Courthouse, permanent offices of the Election Board and polling places. Allowing ballot returns to these locations will increase the number of ways to return mail-in ballots.