The Lead

Pa. Senate committee advances bill proposing guidelines for transporting marked election ballots

By: - October 18, 2022 5:41 pm

(Capital-Star file)

(*This story was updated at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, to include comment from the Pennsylvania Department of State.)

A Pennsylvania Senate committee on Tuesday advanced legislation outlining guidelines for marked ballot transportation, sending the proposal to the full chamber for consideration.

The bill authored by state Rep. Gary Day, R-Lehigh, would implement universal requirements for completed ballots, including sealing them in plastic transportation containers with a list of contents to ensure security and documenting if — and why — seals are broken.

The Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved the bill, with Day saying it provides security procedures for ballot transportation before and after an election that improve the electoral process without making it harder for counties to administer elections.

Some counties already seal ballots after an election and maintain a chain of custody, but Day’s legislation would standardize the process.

The Department of State told the Capital-Star that the legislation is in line with guidance previously issued to Pennsylvania counties.

The legislation requires that marked ballots be sealed in a container whenever they’re not at a polling place or county board of elections office, allowing for an exception when they are in the custody of the United States Postal Service. The sealed container must include a numbered security tag and an identification number.

A bill of lading — including the location, date, and time of collection — should accompany the ballot container until election staff sort the ballots at a polling place or county elections office.

If the numbered security tag is broken, it should be stored with the bill of lading and marked with the time, date, and location of the incident, reasoning, broken security tag number, and new security tag number.

Day’s proposal also includes guidelines to document who handles the ballot containers and who is allowed to inspect them. The legislation also lets poll watchers know the number of ballot containers containing ballots in a given election.

The committee also approved a bill introduced by state Rep. Lori Mizgorski, R-Allegheny, requiring write-in candidates to file a statement of financial interest within 30 days of being elected or nominated to public office.

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