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Why do some Pennsylvania counties’ elections run smoother than others?

Dauphin County Elections Director Jerry Feaser talks about his experiences in a changing landscape

  • Scott LaMar
Mail ballots turned in on Election Day 2022 in Pennsylvania, like ones seen here in Lehigh County, had to have a date on the outer envelope.

 Matt Smith / For Spotlight PA

Mail ballots turned in on Election Day 2022 in Pennsylvania, like ones seen here in Lehigh County, had to have a date on the outer envelope.

Airdate: Decemeber 19th, 2023


Four years ago, the law that allowed Pennsylvanians to vote by mail without having to provide a reason, was hailed a major milestone that would make voting easier and more convenient for many voters. For the most part — it has and was especially valuable in 2020 when the COVID pandemic limited public gatherings like voting in person.

But there also have been hiccups with mail-in voting.

Former president Donald Trump said during his re-election campaign — without evidence to back it up — that fraud would be rampant if large numbers of voters cast their ballots by voting by mail. That didn’t happen.

However, there have been several issues in the last three years that have caused confusion – printing errors and questions about whether to count ballots where voters didn’t complete them properly.

That was the issue before a federal court a few weeks ago when a judge ruled ballots that weren’t dated correctly should be counted. It created some chaos amongst the state’s 67 counties because of the timing of the decision according to Jerry Feaser, Director of Registrations and Elections in Dauphin County on The Spark Tuesday. Feaser said counties must certify election results twice and the ruling came out the day before the second certification. feaser indicated Dauphin County worked to include 112 ballots that either weren’t dated or had the wrong date. But not all counties did and that’s what can sow mistrust,”These after the fact, after the election rulings are where a lot of people start to question the legitimacy of election results because, well, wait a minute, they changed the numbers after the Election Day was held. So, you know, again, should they be counted or should they not be counted, That’s not for an election official to call. That’s for the courts, the legislature, the governor. They’re the policymakers. But it really created a lot of concern because some counties didn’t include them.”

Pennsylvania’s counties have pleaded with the legislature to allow them to “pre canvas” or count mail-in ballots before Election Day, which currently is when state law says mail-in ballots can be opened and counted. Feaser suggested a bit of a compromise,” In my mind, if they allowed under pre canvasing — just the ability to open the ballot envelope, the first envelope and leave the ballot secrecy envelope and the ballot in there, that at least cuts in half the amount of time we have to take to get the ballots opened to put them in the scanners. So that would help us tremendously.”

Feaser is retiring as Dauphin County’s Director of Registrations and Elections at the end of this week. He was asked what he would recommend to improve voting and take pressure off election administrators,”My parents moved to Florida, and one of the things my mother and father love is early voting. And I’ve talked to county election officials in Florida when I go and visit and they tell me that when you allow for early voting, a two week period from a Saturday to a Saturday and you allow voters to come in, sign in electronically in a poll book, put their ballot into a scanner, you save those results. You don’t touch those until Election Day. You are then reducing the pressure on Election Day. So, 40% of the vote is done by early voting. 30% is done by mail, absentee balloting and then 30% in-person Election day. You can smooth out that pressure of everything happening on one day.”



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