Reduce doubt by authorizing early count
President Donald Trump has made it clear that he intends to use any delay in counting the Nov. 3 election to justify his repeated claim that the only way he could lose the election is by fraud related to the pandemic-induced migration to voting by mail.
Wednesday, the same day that Trump unconscionably said that he would not commit to a smooth transition of power if he loses, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said that county election offices will need to start counting mailed ballots before Election Day to have any hope of quickly reporting complete results.
More than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail for the June 2 primary election and that number could nearly double for the general election, by state estimates.
In an interview with the Morning Call, Boockvar said that even in a worst-case scenario, county election offices are well prepared to have the millions of mailed ballots tabulated by the weekend following the election, or sooner. That is reassuring in itself because some political analysts have projected delays of weeks or longer.
The solution to ensure the most timely and accurate count possible is to allow county election offices to begin counting mailed ballots on the Saturday before Election Day. They would not announce the results so as not to influence voters who will vote in person or mail ballots at the last minute. But the early totals would be available with in-person results counted on Election Day.
Absent that early count, Boockvar said, the state will establish a highly transparent protocol to document in real time the number of ballots counted and those remaining to be tallied, which counties they came from and the party affiliations tied to the outstanding ballots.
The bipartisan vote reforms of 2019 that authorized mail-in voting, well before the pandemic made it essential, are the signature achievement of the current Legislature. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should complete that reform by authorizing the early count to ensure the earliest possible release of vote totals, and to preclude the use of any delay in an attempt to thwart the voters’ will.