Chet Harhut, deputy manager, of the Allegheny County Division of Elections, wheels a dolly loaded with mail-in ballots, at the division of elections offices in downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The once-delayed Jun 2 Pennsylvania primary was a first run for some new paper-record voting systems and the inaugural use of newly legalized mail-in ballots. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Mail-in Ballots in Allegheny County
Chet Harhut, deputy manager, of the Allegheny County Division of Elections, wheels a dolly loaded with mail-in ballots, at the division of elections offices in downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The once-delayed Jun 2 Pennsylvania primary was a first run for some new paper-record voting systems and the inaugural use of newly legalized mail-in ballots. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The state Senate is currently considering House Bill 2626, which would move up the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots and eliminate drop boxes.

The state Senate is currently considering legislation that would move up the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots and eliminate the use of ballot drop boxes.

The bill also would allow counties to pre-canvas—but not open—ballots as early as the Saturday before an election, and require counties to contact any voter whose ballot signature does not match the signature in county records.

The GOP-sponsored bill, House Bill 2626, is an attempt to address problems with the state’s voting laws that were revealed by the unprecedented demand for mail-in ballots in the June primary.

But some say it is a misguided attempt that will actually make voting more difficult for some people.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 77, the law that allows no-excuse mail-in voting among other elections reforms, into law in October 2019.

Approximately 1.4 million Pennsylvania voters took advantage of the new rules and opted to vote by mail.

Because the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots was one week before the election and the deadline to return them was election day, some voters did not receive their official ballots in time to complete them and send them back. Elections officials in some counties attempted to address the problem by putting ballot drop boxes in areas that were far from the county elections office.

Republicans have argued that the ballot drop boxes are not secure and increase the potential for fraud in the election. They have challenged the use of drop boxes in court.

We asked candidates in 14 state Senate races what they would do to eliminate these problems and make voting easier for all Pennsylvania voters. Here are their unedited answers:

District 9 (Parts of Chester and Delaware Counties)

John Kane, Democratic Challenger: “First, we need to enact Automatic Voter Registration to remove that first hurdle to having people exercise their right to vote. Second, like other states who have successfully implemented vote by mail, we should allow county officials to begin counting ballots before election day, without publicly releasing results, to ensure that we have a timely, accurate count on election day.”

Thomas Killion, Republican Incumbent: “Free, fair and secure elections are fundamental to our system of government. That’s why I was a proud co-sponsor of the most sweeping election reform law Pennsylvania has seen in more than 70 years. Participation by as many of our citizens as possible in our electoral process is critical. This new law extended deadlines to register to vote, request and submit an absentee ballot and created Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail system. 

“Ballot drop boxes proved a secure and safe way for Pennsylvanians to cast their vote in the June primary, and I am glad they will be used in the General Election. Moving forward, it is imperative we allow the more than 800,000 Pennsylvanians not affiliated with either major party to participate in our primary elections. Independents are the fastest growing block of voters. Their participation in the both parts of the electoral process—our primaries and general elections—is right and proper and will help reinvigorate our democracy.”

District 11 (Part of Berks County)

Judy Schwank, Democratic Incumbent: Schwenk did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, she had not addressed the issue on her website.

Annette Baker, Republican Challenger: Baker did not respond to our questions.

District 13 (Part of Lancaster County)

Janet Diaz, Democratic Challenger: “With the increase in mail-in ballots, counties should be allowed to pre-canvass and process ballots before election day. We should make it easier for Pennsylvanians to exercise their civic right in voting—not harder.”

Scott Martin, Republican Incumbent: Martin did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

District 15 (Parts of Dauphin and Perry Counties)

George Scott, Democratic Challenger: “As a veteran, I can personally vouch for mail-in voting—I voted by mail while serving our country in the Army. Democracy works because it gives people a voice, and a vote, to hold elected leaders accountable. Mail-in voting makes sure everyone can be heard, even if they are concerned about their health, safety, or ability to vote on election day. That’s why I support counting ballots that are postmarked by election day, allowing counties to utilize drop boxes to collect ballots, and giving local election officials a reasonable pre-canvassing period to ensure that every vote can be counted in a timely fashion. I also oppose efforts to suppress voting, such as rejecting a ballot sent in without a secrecy envelope. We’re facing the most severe pandemic in over 100 years. Mail-in voting isn’t about partisan politics—it’s about keeping our communities safe and our democracy strong.”

John DiSanto, Republican Incumbent: DiSanto did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

District 17 (Parts of Delaware and Montgomery Counties)

Amanda Cappelletti, Democratic Challenger: Cappelletti did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, she had not addressed the issue on her website.

Ellen Fisher, Republican Challenger: “The date for mail in request is too close to the election, it does not give enough time for the state and the county to process them, let alone for the voter to get it back to the Election Bureau on election day. I would move the request deadline to three weeks before the election and require all ballots be received by election day. Drop boxes could be placed securely in each polling place, but of course if you have to drive miles to a dropbox between the hours they are secured, I am not sure how that is more convenient than actually voting in person.”

District 19 (Part of Chester County)

Carolyn Comitta, Democratic Candidate: Comitta did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, she had not addressed the issue on her website.

However, as a state representative, she votes against House Bill 2626.

House Bill 2626 would move up the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot and eliminate the use of drop boxes.

Kevin Runey, Republican Candidate: Runey did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

District 21 (Clarion, Forest, Venango, and Parts of Butler and Warren Counties)

Shelbie Stromyer, Democratic Challenger: Stromyer did not respond to our questions.

Scott Hutchinson, Republican Incumbent: Hutchinson did not respond to our questions.

District 23 (Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Union and Parts of Susquehanna Counties)

Jackie Baker, Democratic Challenger: Baker did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, she had not addressed the issue on her website.

Gene Yaw, Republican Incumbent: Yaw did not respond to our questions.

District 25 (Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Mckean, Potter, Tioga, and Parts of Clearfield Counties)

Margie Brown, Democratic Candidate: “Ultimately we need to make voting as transparent and accessible as possible. Having mail in ballots as an option is one way we can do this. Mail in ballots have been successfully used in elections across the country for years, and I’m glad Pennsylvania is offering this option. There has been a lot of confusion and a lot of rule changes, so my hope is that there will be a very clear and robust communications campaign so that everyone in Pennsylvania knows how to make their vote count!”

Cris Dush, Republican Candidate: Dush did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

However, as a state representative, Dush voted for House Bill 2626.

District 27 (Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Parts of Luzerne Counties)

Michelle Siegel, Democratic Challenger: “Fundamental to our identity as Americans is our right to vote. The past year has seen the passage and implementation of Act 77 and Act 12. These reforms have expanded mail-in voting and made the ballot box more accessible to hard working Pennsylvanians. However, there is more work to be done. I support automatic voter registration for U.S. citizens, more funding for voter education, legislation creating an open primary, pre-paid postage for mail-in ballots, early voting on Sundays, and increased access to early mail-in in person voting. Additionally, there has been a precedent for decades that allows military absentee ballots to be accepted several days following the election as long as they are postmarked by the deadline. If this standard is good enough for military ballots, it should be extended to mail-in ballots. 

“I firmly believe that voter ID laws are a canard, and that fears of in person voter fraud could be eliminated by encouraging mail in voting. This primary season I voted using the newly created mail-in process, which requires a driver’s license number to request a ballot. This requirement makes it more difficult for one individual to even attempt to vote multiple times.” 

John Gordner, Republican Incumbent: Gordner did not respond to our questions.

District 31 (Parts of Cumberland and York Counties)

Shanna Danielson, Democratic Challenger: “Providing no-excuse mail in voting was a historic win for voters in Pennsylvania. The primary showed us the popularity of this option, but also exposed some weaknesses in the law. The deadline to request (being one week before the election) is tricky for County Boards of Election to meet, as that is a tight turnaround. The inability to open and at least pre-canvass ballots before 7am on election day is also problematic, as many counties took a week or more to tabulate final results. Those are issues I’d be looking to tackle first.”

Mike Regan, Republican Incumbent: Regan did not respond to our questions.

District 33 (Adams County and Parts of Cumberland, Franklin, and York Counties)

Richard Sterner, Democratic Challenger: Sterner did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

Doug Mastriano, Republican Incumbent: Mastriano did not respond to our questions.

District 35 (Bedford, Cambria and Parts of Clearfield County)

Shaun Dougherty, Democratic Challenger: “Last year bipartisan legislation overwhelmingly passed to update how we vote here in Pennsylvania. It was fantastic to see that Harrisburg can work together to make real change when it puts party aside and works for all of us. The mail-in ballot option benefits all Pennsylvanias, especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe we should be making it easier for people to vote.  Mail in ballots should be treated exactly the same as absentee ballots. Any ballot postmarked by 8pm election night should be counted if received by 5pm November 6th. County election officials should be able to start processing ballots at noon on election day, only if all outstanding election issues have been addressed, i.e. should machines need calibration or  problems at a polling location. Counties should be able to place drop boxes in areas that are secure, or under surveillance. We should be making voting easier, not using political theatre to disenfranchise those who voices need to be heard the most.”

Wayne Langerholc, Republican Incumbent: Langerholc did not respond to our questions.

District 37 (Parts of Allegheny and Washington Counties)

Pam Iovino, Democratic Incumbent: Iovino did not respond to our questions.

On her website, she says, “One of the things I was most proud of during my first year was voting for and supporting Governor Wolf’s overhaul of the state’s election system which saw the creation of no excuse mail in voting, an extended voter registration period and an extended vote my mail period. But we still have a long way to go here to ensure everyone’s voice is heard here in PA as democracy functions best when everyone can participate. Right now, there are too many barriers to voting. Pennsylvania has onerous rules for absentee voting and an overly-partisan redistricting process. When districts are gerrymandered and citizens feel that big campaign donors matter more than they do, they are less likely to vote. I am proud to have supported the push for a nonpartisan commission to draw our legislative maps going forward during my first year in office. We need to enact campaign finance and redistricting reform in Harrisburg, and eliminate barriers to voting, so that our democracy can truly be for everyone.”

Devlin Robinson, Republican Challenger: Robinson did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

District 39 (Parts of Westmoreland County)

Tay Waltenbaugh, Democratic Challenger: “The ACT 77 changes to PA elections law were only recently passed and were meant to strengthen voting rights for all eligible individuals. It is very unfortunate that the narrative around vote by mail has become a partisan attack line that is now hurting PA’s voters. Let’s work on getting the new changes implemented correctly before we talk about rewriting what was just rewritten in 2019. My focus as a candidate and committed advocate of voter’s rights is to use my platform to educate and instruct folks on how to apply for a mail in ballot, how to complete it correctly, and how to make sure it is received and counted before the deadline.”

Kim Ward, Republican Incumbent: Ward did not respond to our questions.

District 41 (Armstrong County and Indiana County and parts of Butler County and Westmoreland County)

Tony DeLoreto, Democratic Challenger: DeLoreto did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

Joe Pittman, Republican Incumbent: Pittman did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.

District 45 (Parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties)

James Brewster, Democratic Incumbent: “There is a great deal of concern about how counties can handle the influx of mail-in ballots and whether the mail system – especially given the actions of the postmaster general – can handle the processing of all votes.  All votes should count, and all votes must be counted. 

I support expanding the number of days prior to the election when ballots can be opened and counted in order to ensure rapid results.  I support secure drop boxes and efforts to create access for voters to cast votes by mail.  Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the health concerns, we need to do all we can to craft a system where more voters can vote without the traditional election day congregation of voters.

Plus, with the delays in the mail system, prompted by unnecessary changes made by the postmaster general, we have to increase the number of days following the election when ballots can be accepted, provided they are postmarked prior to election day.”

Nicole Ziccarelli, Republican Challenger: Ziccarelli did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, she had not addressed the issue on her website.

District 47 (Lawrence, and Parts of Beaver and Butler Counties)

Stephen Krizan III, Democratic Challenger: Krizan did not respond to our questions.

Elder Vogel, Republican Incumbent: Vogel did not respond to our questions.

District 49 (Parts of Erie County)

Julie Slomski, Democratic Challenger: Slomski did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, she had not addressed the issue on her website.

Daniel Laughlin, Republican Incumbent: Laughlin did not respond to our questions.

As of Monday, he had not addressed the issue on his website.