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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has the opportunity to further strengthen its election system by codifying temporary reforms enacted in 2020 and implementing other voter-centric reforms. In particular, we recommend that the State codify election day postmark acceptance and drop boxes. In addition, by passing legislation to establish preprocessing, signature verification, and a cure process, Pennsylvania can continue to build upon the work done in 2020. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Pennsylvania can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by creating a permanent absentee voting list, where voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. Expanding Pennsylvania’s permanent absentee option to all residents and making the list truly permanent, rather than from year to year, would save the state significant expenses by cutting down on the requests it needs to process.
Pennsylvania already has some drop boxes and election office drop off, adding more drop boxes and polling place drop off would further lessen the reliance on the postal service and increase voter convenience and confidence. We also recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling places and other locations deemed necessary by clerks.
As use of absentee ballots increases, it is important to make sure that the ballots received are being filled out by the individuals they were sent to. Signature verification procedures ensure the security of the election process while also streamlining ballot processing.
In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected, said voter should have the ability to cure any correctable issues with their ballot quickly and simply to lower rejection rates. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. Pennsylvania already has Election Day postmark acceptance for overseas and military voters. The State also had an election day postmark acceptance policy as a temporary measure for the November election; we recommend making this policy permanent. We recommend that, not only does a state allow the physical postmark on a ballot, but that it also integrate into the USPS system for electronic postmarks.
Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or BallotTrax can be a very cost-effective tool to improve Pennsylvania’s current ballot tracking and increase voter confidence. An expanded notification system helps keep rejection rates low and increases voter confidence and participation.
Processing mail ballots to get them ready for counting before election day will help Pennsylvania get faster election results. Preliminary data also suggests that preprocessing helps avoid any blue or red shifts when there are differences in the partisan lean of mail vs. in person ballots, which could increase voter confidence in the results of elections.

Recent Legislation

As of May 26, 2021

In 2020, Pennsylvania implemented emergency measures that assisted voters when casting mail ballots. First, Pennsylvania allowed voters who had requested a mail ballot to vote a provisional ballot in person. Second, Pennsylvania extended the postmark acceptance deadline and accepted ballots that were received by November 6th, so long as they were postmarked by the 3rd. Finally, Pennsylvania implemented drop boxes across the state to expand ballot return options.

Pennsylvania now has the opportunity to strengthen its electoral system by codifying some of these temporary policies and implementing other voter-centric reforms. The Legislature has not yet passed any mail ballot-related legislation this year, but still has the opportunity to do so. The Legislature is currently considering bills related to a permanent absentee voter list, ballot pre-canvassing, a cure process, and the proactive mailing of ballots, among other issues.