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October 30, 2020
Pre-Canvassing and Canvassing of Absentee and Mail-in Ballots: Our Goal is Accuracy
On October 31, 2019, Act 77 was signed into law in Pennsylvania. This Act states that Pre-canvassing of absentee and mail-in ballots may begin on Election Day after 7:00 am. Pre-canvassing includes the manual opening of the declaration envelope, removing the secrecy envelope, opening the secrecy envelope, and finally removing the actual ballot. Ballots then need to be back-folded to flatten in preparation for scanning them through the high speed central scanner. Franklin County will begin this process at 8:30 am on November 3rd.
Act 77 also states that “The County Board of Election shall meet no earlier than the close of polls on the day of the election (8:00 pm) and no later than the third day following the election to begin canvassing the absentee ballots and mail-in ballots received under this subsection and subsection (h)(2). The canvass shall continue through the eighth day following the election.”
On Election Night, beginning around 8:30 pm, all of our seventy-three (73) polling places will be reporting back to the County with the results of in-person voting. This process is overseen by the three member County Board of Elections with the assistance of many County staff members including County Administration, Elections, Voter Registration and Information Technology. Due to the anticipated increased turnout at the polls, we do not expect to have this process completed until around 11:00 pm.
As we have previously reported, Franklin County has received over 24,000 applications for absentee and mail-in ballots. Even with a high speed central scanner counting approximately 4500 ballots per hour, if the process started at 11:00 pm we still would not have results on Tuesday. Our goal is accuracy. Since we have been given three days to complete our canvass, we will recess on election night and reconvene on Wednesday morning at 8:30 am to give our full attention to this process. As stated in the Act, the canvass will continue through Tuesday, November 10th when military absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted per state law.
Voters are encouraged to check our website at www.franklincountypa.gov or the state website at www.electionreturns.pa.gov for election results since we will be updating them on a daily basis. All results will have three reporting group totals: 1) Election Day, 2) Mail-in and 3) Provisional. On Tuesday evening, the public will see the results from Election Day voting under the first category. Beginning on Wednesday, the public will start to see totals under the second category and we will continue to update this category until all absentee and mail-in ballots have been counted. Keep in mind that military voters have until Tuesday, Nov. 10th, to get their ballots back and counted. Finally, on Tuesday, Nov. 10th, the public will see any provisional ballot results in the third category since counties have seven days after each election to research to determine whether a provisional ballot will count or not.
We do want to assure all voters that their absentee and mail-in ballots will be counted unless it was returned “naked” and not in a secrecy envelope. We are also awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether ballots with a postmark of November 3rd but received up through November 6th can be counted.
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