Pa.’s election head says voting overhauls will make 2020 primary tough for counties

Thanks to a package of new laws, county officials will likely have to count more absentee ballots and register more voters.  

  • Katie Meyer

(Harrisburg) — A slate of brand-new voting laws will be used for the first time in Pennsylvania’s April primary —and counties are working to prepare.

Some are concerned they won’t be ready—and the commonwealth’s secretary of state says she’s a little worried too.

Lawmakers updated the election code in October with Act 77.

It adds two weeks to the voter registration period, extends the deadline for returning absentee ballots, and lets voters request absentee ballots without an excuse. It also gets rid of straight-ticket voting.

In a speech Monday, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said some county election officials have told her they might have trouble counting absentee ballots, or dealing with an influx of late registrations.

She noted, the situation is especially tough because the new laws are being used for the first time in a “major election year.”

“That’s why the Department of State has been spending a lot of our focus on assisting the counties,” she said.

That assistance has taken the form of training county election workers, and putting together new websites explaining the voting law changes.

Despite possible technical difficulties, Boockvar said she expects the election code overhaul will make voting more accessible.

She added, lawmakers could go even further by allowing voters to register up until election day.

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