Pennsylvania Democrats are scrambling to bolster the state’s vote-by-mail procedures to avoid a repeat of June’s primary process in the general election.
Gov. Tom Wolf met with a group of other influential Democratic politicians and power brokers recently to discuss possible reforms to the election process, and how to best counter allegations of malfeasance, according to Politico. In the worst-case scenario, Pennsylvania, a battleground state, will not be able to verify the results of its election until weeks after polls close.
For its June primary, Pennsylvania implemented no-excuse absentee voting, meaning voters did not need an excuse to request an absentee ballot, for the first time ever. Mail-in ballots skyrocketed to over 1.4 million in the state, overloading the system and delaying the outcomes of several races by weeks.
Roughly two months out from the general election, lawmakers and strategists are still debating ways to shore up the voting process, causing headaches for those in charge of managing the election’s logistics at the ground level.
“I’ve got a growing list of things that I’d normally do, but I can’t,” Forrest Lehman, elections director for Lycoming County, told NBC. “We don’t know what the rules are.”
Republicans in the state legislature are pushing legislation that would allow election officials to begin opening mail-in ballots three days before the election to get a head start on counting absentee votes. Wolf opposes the measure for the limit it would place on the time to request an absentee ballot.
In the meantime, some local governments, such as Philadelphia’s, have been upgrading equipment and purchasing sanitizer and other pandemic supplies with money from private grants as well as government funds. Philadelphia City Commissioners Lisa Deeley said that even with a $10 million grant, the city will be ill-equipped for the flood of mail-in ballots.
“Even with all that equipment, with nearly 400,000 ballots that we expect to receive, it’s physically impossible that they will all be opened and scanned before the polls close on Election Day,” Deeley told Politico. “The new reality is winners and losers are not going to be known at the end of the night.”
Earlier this week, the Democratic data firm Hawkfish predicted a “red mirage” on election night that showed President Trump beating Democratic nominee Joe Biden by a landslide, then slowly losing ground — and eventually the election — days later as mail-in votes were tallied.
Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who has raised election concerns with Wolf’s office, said that an election night fiasco like that would allow Trump to claim victory prematurely “and create fear and doubt in the process.”
“And that is what I am very worried about. And that is certainly very possible in Pennsylvania because of the current restrictions that we have,” Nutter said.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) dismissed Nutter’s concerns as fear-mongering.
“Sounds like someone is worried about losing Pennsylvania this November and it isn’t President Trump,” RNC spokesman Michael Joyce told Politico. “While Democrats zero in on pushing theoretical conspiracy theories, Pennsylvania Trump Victory continues to focus on the voters who will put President Trump over the top once again in the Keystone State.”