HB 847 Hopes to Address Two Election Concerns, Making the Process Easier for Voters and the Counties

Posted May 31, 2023, by Paul Fedore


A bill with potential to address election concerns has made it through the State Government Committee and has been laid on the table of the House of Representatives. 

HB 847, introduced by Centre County Representative Scott Conklin, would amend the state election code to allow counties seven days prior to Election Day to pre-canvass mail-in ballots. This means workers would be able to open the envelopes, flatten the ballots, and get them ready for scanning ahead of Election Day. The bill would also extend the deadline to request mail-in ballots in the state, allowing for voters to request mail-in ballots for a longer period than in previous elections. 

The legislation would extend the deadline to request a mail-in ballot from seven days before the election to eleven days before the election. Currently, in Pennsylvania, the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election. Extending the deadline to request a mail-in ballot could have a significant impact on elections in several ways. With more time to request a ballot, we can expect that more people will vote by mail. An increase in the number of mail-in votes could increase the workload of elections officials in processing those ballots, and in turn could delay election results. That said, it is important to note that the way in which this bill works to address expanding voter access is not limited to extending the deadline to request a mail-in ballot. 

The issue of pre-canvassing ballots has become a topic of great importance in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. Pre-canvassing refers to the process of verifying and preparing mail-in and absentee ballots for counting before Election Day. In Pennsylvania, current law limits pre-canvassing to the day of the election, creating delays and logistical challenges in the vote-counting process.

This bill seeks to extend pre-canvassing of ballots, allowing for election officials to prepare ballots in advance, to be counted on election day. First and foremost, it would likely speed up the vote counting process, allowing for more timely reporting of election results. This would be particularly important in close elections where delays and vote counting can lead to uncertainty and controversy. In addition, allowing earlier processing will give elections officials more time to identify issues with how folks fill out their ballots, giving them more time to rectify those issues and have those votes counted. 

Extending the timeline for pre-canvassing could also help to reduce the workload of election officials, who are often overwhelmed on Election Day. We know that in rural communities, there is a shortage of folks willing to work as officials. If given more time to process and verify mail-in ballots, officials could focus their attention on other aspects of the election, for example, ensuring that polling places are running smoothly and addressing any issues that arise. 

Overall, extending the deadline to request mail-in ballots will likely increase the amount of mail-in ballots cast. However, allowing election officials to precanvass those ballots should mitigate any potential delays on election results and workload on election officials. This bill works to address the spectrum of impact around extending the mail-in ballot request deadline. 

We are working alongside partners to continue to increase voter access and turnout and would like to see these two issues addressed. We recognize the drawbacks to these proposals and hope that our state government can implement a solution that does not put more of a burden on elections officials and workers.

CCJ will be watching the movement of this legislation and providing updates as we receive new information. If you’d like to know more, please contact our Field Program Coordinator Paul at 724-229-7333 or paul@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.


  • Paul Fedore

    Paul Fedore has been a resident of Washington County since 2016 and previously worked with Washington County United, a chapter of PA United, as a canvasser fighting for economic, environmental, and racial justice. He loves camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. Paul joined CCJ’s team in July 2020 as the Field Program Coordinator to help deepen and strengthen our relationships with communities in southwestern Pennsylvania and to ensure that people have a pathway to engage in improving their communities. As of late 2023, Paul is now a Community Organizer, and is excited to work with everyone to hold fossil fuel companies and our elected officials accountable and to organize to build power in our small towns and rural communities. Contact Paul at paul@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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