By Barbara McIlvaine Smith 07/22/2008
Daily Local News
On June 11, I sent a memo to my colleagues asking them to “Please join me in ensuring that voters who cast their absentee ballots in good faith are not kept from participating in the electoral process.” This is a key issue, one I am very familiar with since my race in 2006 for the 156th Legislative District seat was decided by the tallying of absentee ballots. I won by 28 votes.
Current law allows a select group of absentee ballots, such as those of military and overseas absentee ballots, to be received by the county board of elections after 5 o’clock p.m. on the Friday preceding the election and no later than 5 o’clock p.m. on the seventh day following the election, to be included in the final vote count, if the ballot is postmarked no later than the day immediately preceding the election.
My legislation would provide for the canvassing of all absentee ballots on the eighth day following the election, as long as they are postmarked no later than the day immediately proceeding Election Day.
On July 7 while I was still in Harrisburg working on the budget, my district office received a letter from the county commissioners addressing this same issue. I applaud their efforts and their ability to work together in a nonpartisan way. We at the state level were also able to come together on this issue. In a show of bipartisan support, 24 co-sponsors have signed onto my bill (HB 2721).
I am happy to report that HB 2721 has been introduced and will be assigned to the State Government Committee for a vote. If it is reported out of committee, it will then go to the Appropriations Committee to be reviewed and given a fiscal note. After that, it will go to the Rules Committee which will make the decision whether to bring it to the floor of the House for a full vote.
If HB 2721 is voted affirmatively off the House floor, it will then go to the Senate for the same review. If the Senate votes in favor of it, it then goes to the governor for his signature and will become law.
Will all of this get done in time for the November election? If, and only if, the electorate allows their legislators to know how important this is. Write, call or e-mail them.
When I ran for state representative, I promised to make reform of state government a top priority.
When we return for our fall legislative session, I will be asking my fellow legislators to vote for HB 2721 in order to make certain that every vote counts.
(Barbara McIlvaine Smith of West Chester is the state representative for the 156th Legislative District.)