Pennsylvania secretary of state insists voting hurdles will be resolved

A lawsuit is holding up the ability to certify the candidates on the ballot.

September 15, 2020, 10:36 PM

With just 49 days until Election Day, the state of Pennsylvania finds itself in a rather uncertain place regarding mail voting, absentee ballots, and poll workers.

An ongoing lawsuit in which Pennsylvania Democrats contest the inclusion of the Green Party's presidential candidate on the Pennsylvania ballot is holding up the state's ability to officially certify the candidate list that will ultimately appear on the ballot. Until the state is able to complete the certification process, ballots cannot be printed and disseminated to voters.

Paired with a decrease in the amount of poll workers able to assist on site, it remains to be determined how the state will handle the hectic sprint to November.

The commonwealth's Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar, says these issues will be resolved, telling ABC News' Linsey Davis that everything is under control in her state.

"We've already received just under 1.9 million applications for mailing or absentee ballots," said Boockvar. "And just for context, about 300,000 or so voters voted by mail voted absentee in the 2016 primary. So it's quite an increase."

"However, in the primary of 2020, we already have had almost 1.5 million voters vote by mail," she said. "So the counties have been working around the clock to make sure that they have what they need, the resources in place, equipment staff and so forth. And they will get it done."

PHOTO: Kathy Boockvar is interviewed at Roll Call in Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2012.
Kathy Boockvar is interviewed at Roll Call in Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2012.
Douglas Graham/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

But the Pennsylvania NAACP disagrees. This summer, the organization sued the state of Pennsylvania to ensure adequate polling locations and procedures are available in November, saying the consolidation of polling locations during the primaries disproportionately impacted minority communities.

Boockvar told ABC News that that case was thrown out last week and that everything is returning back to "normal."

"I'm happy to say that the law that covered the June 2 primary only applied to June 2 -- so we had October, 2020, passed in March, it changed the primary dates on April 28 to June 2 and also allowed our base consolidations solely for that day," she said. "It expired that day, [when] we were in the middle of the surge of the pandemic."

"Now we go back to the normal, so every county is planning on having normal or close to normal numbers of polling places," Boockvar said. "Voters can expect that those polling places will be in their communities as they always are every year." she added.

However Pennsylvania NAACP State Conference President Kenneth L. Huston says the information being provided by Boockvar is incorrect.

"The secretary of state is absolutely misinformed," said Huston.

"What happened was, we were not granted the injunction. But we did appeal. And the lawsuit as a whole has not been thrown out," he said.

Boockvar says that she and other Pennsylvania election officials are working around the clock in voters' best interests. In the upcoming weeks, she says she hopes the various voting-related hurdles currently being debated will come to a resolution.

"The counties are working really hard, like I said, to make sure that they have staff in place, equipment in place, processes in place, to count quickly," Boockvar said. "However, we know that every voter, most importantly, wants the votes to be counted accurately."

Boockvar says one of the things she hopes will happen is that the state legislature will allow counties to start pre-canvassing ballots weeks before Election Day.

"We've been advocating for this with the legislature for months to have 21 days to give the counties the ability to get this done quicker so far. That has not come to fruition, but there's still time and we're hoping this week the legislature takes action and makes this happen and recognizes this is in the best interest of everybody," she said.

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