Counties still waiting for Pa. to grant more time to open ballot envelopes, but it may be too late

mail-in ballot
Photo credit Darylann Elmi/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — County elections officials have been asking the state for months if they can have more time to prepare mail-in ballots for counting. The state Legislature is expected to take up that legislation next week when it is back in session, but local elections boards say by that point, it may be too late.

Under current rules, county elections offices can’t start opening ballot envelopes until 7 a.m. on Election Day, meaning it may take them days from that point to finish counting.

In order to have results as soon as possible, elections officials have been asking state lawmakers to let them open envelopes days or even weeks in advance to have them ready for counting.

But this close to the election, Ken Lawrence, Montgomery County Board of Elections chair, said “we’re not counting on” it.

He said it would have been helpful if the Legislature could have addressed this two months ago when they were making staffing preparations.

Lawrence can’t guess how long it will take to count the ballots, nor how many the county will receive. The county did, however, invest more than $1 million in equipment like high-speed scanners and envelope extractors, hoping to accelerate the process.

Election officials will count the ballots 24 hours a day until they are finished.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 19. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27, though county officials warn against waiting until the last minute to apply for one. Depending on the number of requests they get on Oct. 27, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to send ballots out in time to be returned by Nov. 3.