Tom Ridge urges Pennsylvania to hurry up mail vote counting

A former Republican governor of Pennsylvania on Wednesday known as on that state’s Legislature to make a small change to how mail-in ballots are counted that might make an enormous distinction in how rapidly election outcomes are reported in November.

“We should take all steps potential to make sure that officers can nonetheless run safe and environment friendly elections. Any effort on the contrary solely serves to discredit the result and the sanctity of our vote,” wrote Tom Ridge, who was Pennsylvania’s governor from 1995 to 2001.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. (Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto by way of Getty Photos)

Ridge, together with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, despatched an open letter to the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature asking it to permit election clerks to arrange mail ballots for counting earlier than Election Day.

State regulation at present prohibits officers from doing something to expedite the method of counting mail ballots, and since demand for mail-in voting has surged as a consequence of considerations over COVID-19, that might delay the end in Pennsylvania — a vital swing state — by many days.

“Whereas many states go as far as to rely ballots previous to Election Day, there isn’t any motive to forestall a minimum of opening envelopes, verifying signatures, and stacking ballots in order that they’re able to be counted immediately,” wrote Ridge and Granholm, who co-chair a gaggle known as Vote Secure, which was shaped this 12 months and advocates for increasing entry to voting by mail, and for better congressional funding to states to assist make this occur.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Democrat Kathy Boockvar, instructed Yahoo Information in late July that she was “in conversations” with the Legislature to permit clerks to open ballots “as a lot as three weeks upfront of Election Day.” However nothing has but been introduced.

Republicans are in search of to power Democrats to make concessions in return for permitting clerks this time to rely mail ballots, stated Pennsylvania state Rep. Kevin Boyle, the highest Democrat on the Home State Authorities Committee. He stated Republicans need to eradicate drop bins, in addition to early voting facilities which can be at present allowed in some elements of the state, and so they need to develop eligibility for ballot watching to permit anybody from wherever within the state to look at voting inside a polling place wherever else within the state, and problem voters.

Present regulation permits ballot watchers solely to look at and doubtlessly problem voters inside their very own county. Republicans want to enable these from rural counties to behave as ballot watchers in city areas, he stated. 

“Democrats should not going to budge on that,” Boyle instructed Yahoo Information.

Ridge was requested in regards to the dispute over drop bins. The Trump marketing campaign has sued Pennsylvania to eradicate drop bins as effectively, that are safe receptacles overseen by native elections officers the place voters can hand ship a mail poll earlier than Election Day. 

Ridge put his emphasis squarely on giving clerks sufficient time earlier than Election Day to course of mail ballots and put together them for counting. “I don’t have a choice,” he stated of the drop field dispute. “My actual focus is on getting the pre-canvassing moved up.”

Boyle stated that present regulation permits for about 10 early voting facilities within the metropolis of Philadelphia, with early voting allowed 50 days forward of the election. 

Ridge and Granholm acknowledged that any change to how elections are performed is likely to be considered with suspicion by partisan politicians. However they urged Pennsylvania to not view this modification via that lens.

“There’s a lot at stake on this 12 months’s election, and it is sensible that dramatic modifications in course of might be met with trepidation,” they wrote. “However these focused modifications should not that; as an alternative, it’s an acknowledgment of the influence COVID-19 has had on all the opposite features of our lives and this restricted administrative change is a brilliant motion to arrange our election methods for this new actuality.”

Pennsylvania is one in every of three essential swing states that don’t enable clerks to course of mail ballots earlier than Election Day. The others are Michigan and Wisconsin.  

Election consultants have warned for months of a nightmare situation through which — due to these restrictive mail poll guidelines in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Trump could have a lead in votes on election night time if most Republican voters forged ballots in individual whereas most Democratic voters forged ballots by mail.

President Trump at a marketing campaign rally in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday. (Logan Cyrus/Bloomberg by way of Getty Photos)

If that occurs — and polling suggests it’d — Trump may declare victory earlier than mail ballots have been totally counted, after which accuse election officers of stealing the election if mail ballots give Joe Biden a lead. Trump has already claimed time and again this 12 months, with out proof, that there can be dishonest and fraud within the election, particularly via mail-in voting.

Kentucky’s high election official, who can be an election regulation adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, not too long ago instructed Yahoo Information that Trump’s claims of widespread election dishonest are “not possible.”

Yahoo Information has carried out intensive reporting over the previous few months on mail-in voting, the way it works and the way a lot fraud there may be in elections. Claims of widespread fraud are false. Fraud sometimes happens, and mail-in voting is barely much less safe than in-person voting. However incidents of fraud are exceptionally uncommon, and a few states that already conduct their elections completely by mail have established practices to forestall wrongdoing.

These insurance policies embody permitting voters to trace their ballots on-line by a novel bar code and coaching election officers on easy methods to correctly match a voter’s signature on the poll to their signature on file.

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