Election officials report few problems complying with Pennsylvania’s new continuous counting rules for mail-in ballots – The Morning Call

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Despite initial concerns over the new requirement that most Pennsylvania counties count mail-in ballots non-stop, election officials got their jobs done on Tuesday and Wednesday and reported no major problems.

Act 88 passed by Congress earlier this year Provides Election Administration Expenses Grants to CountiesBut there was a catch. The counties that received the money could not stop counting mail ballots until all votes had been tallied. All but four of the state’s 67 counties accepted the state’s proposal.

Many counties have already experienced non-stop counting from past elections. But the legal requirement adds new pressure, prompting counties to develop new processes to ensure compliance with it, and state election officials still adjusting to administer the relatively new vote-by-mail system. It emphasizes all the ways in which

“We’ve done it in the past. It’s nothing new for us,” said Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, chairman of the Lancaster County Electoral Commission.

Lancaster County was able to meet its uninterrupted counting requirements by alternating shifts of dozens of workers each. As with other counties, new equipment, such as high-speed envelope openers purchased with grants, enabled continuous counting.

The Pennsylvania State Department had not received reports of counties struggling to comply with requirements as of late Tuesday night, spokesperson Amy Gurry said.

Counties had to start counting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and most counties were almost done before dawn after the polls closed. By 1:38 a.m. Wednesday, more than 90 percent of his mail-in ballots had been cast in 49 counties, according to State Department data. By 4 p.m. Wednesday (latest data available), the number had reached 55 counties.

Each county has its own detailed instructions for the tallying process. Some election officials prioritized getting results quickly. Others were more focused on the need to potentially address post-election challenges.

This changed the timing of counting in ways that did not necessarily reflect the volume of vote-by-mail ballots received by a particular county.

York County, for example, finished counting ballots of about 37,000 votes by mid-afternoon on Election Day. The county’s chief operating officer, Greg Monskie, proudly said Tuesday that the county will announce the results before midnight, as it has done in past elections.

York’s process is to remove and flatten all ballots from both the outer return envelope and the inner secret envelope.

The county “researched how long each part of that process would take and organized the process accordingly,” Monsky said.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Lancaster County, some workers were scanning ballots, others opening new envelopes. The county continued to count ballots after midnight, despite having only about 6,000 votes than York.

East of Lancaster County, Chester County has still completed about 44,000 mail-in ballots as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, with about 25,000 remaining.

County elections administrator Karen Barsoom explained that the county is lagging behind other counties because of its unique process for counting mail ballots. explained, but focuses on the organizational metrics she prefers and the chain of meticulously detailed management.

Vote-by-mail ballots for each Chester County constituency are separated into three batches according to when they were received. These batches of ballots are first inspected, opened and tallied so workers can flag those they deem to require further legal inspection by completing a color-coded form. can be attached.

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Accompanying the batch through each step of the process is a set of administrative forms that track the number of ballots moved per step. Successfully scanned ballots are placed in a dedicated file box along with a label indicating the precinct, ballot number, tabulator where the ballot was scanned, and the USB drive number where the tabulator data was recorded for final disposal. will be transferred to the computer connected to the ballot. the internet.

Barsoum says the method takes a little longer, but it’s designed to ensure every step is documented and organized, so if problems, recounts, or other issues arise, , the office will know exactly what materials need to be reviewed and where. It is in.

“This is one of the processes that I’m really proud of and would love to patent,” says Barsoum.

The difference in county processes highlights something about Act 88, she said. The law told the county what it had to do, but she hadn’t told it how it had to be done.

“We may not be the fastest, but we know that if something happens, we will be the first to respond in a very successful way… [The goal is] Quality over speed. ”

Carter Walker is a Votebeat reporter affiliated with Spotlight carter

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