States Expanded Voting Access for the Pandemic. The Changes Might Stick.
ANCASTER, Pa. — With one envelope slicer, three ballot scanners and around 175 people, it took election officials roughly 37 consecutive hours to process 91,000 mail-in ballots in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
“It’s taking a little longer to scan than we had hoped,” said Randall Wenger, chief clerk of the county’s Board of Elections, speaking over the click-click-click of the envelope slicer around noon Wednesday, “but we’re getting it done.”
As many other states wrapped up counting record numbers of mail-in ballots, the tabulating in many counties in the Keystone State continued for days after the polls closed. Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania law prevents local officials from beginning their count until 7 a.m. on Election Day. Some counties waited until Wednesday to begin counting.
Many election officials hope that pandemic-related policies that made it easier to vote by mail, leading to a surge of mail-in ballots, will outlive the health crisis. And they say more state and federal money, coupled with new laws to create a more efficient and expansive mail-in voting system, would shorten future counts.
The popularity of mail-in voting this election could put pressure on state lawmakers to make many COVID-19 changes permanent.