Williams: Timely Vote Count Matters

The COVID-19 crisis will not stop us from electing our leaders.

The people trust their government to guarantee their vote counts. Since I took office, I’ve been working with my colleagues on improving our elections. This year, and for the first time, residents can vote by mail with no excuse required. We thought this would be a convenience for busy voters; we never anticipated a pandemic to make this a safety lifeline.

Over one million Pennsylvanians applied to vote by mail for the June 2 primary or to permanently remain on the mail-in voting roster. This is a victory in the era of social distancing. However, a new question arose. How long will it take to count these ballots? It’s possible that we may not know our results until several days later.

How long must we wait for the results of our vote? With Pennsylvania as a critical swing state, the stakes are high. A ballot counting backlog should not block timely results.

My solution is this: clear the backlog before it happens. Current PA law says mailed-in ballots cannot be counted until Election Day. My House Bill 2483 would allow mail-in and absentee ballots received early to be counted starting two weeks before Election Day. Importantly, my bill would also keep all counts confidential until the polls closed on Election Day. This way, county officials could prevent inevitable backlogs while still maintaining the integrity of our vote.

Voting by mail is the safe, simple, and secure option we need during this unprecedented time; it should not have to come at a price. The momentum of mail-in voting is not expected to slow down, so we must continue increasing both efficiency and convenience in our elections.

My proposal would go a long way in accomplishing that.