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Bipartisan Commission Gets Underway To Recommend Changes In Pennsylvania's Elections

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - A new bipartisan state commission got underway on Thursday to evaluate and make recommendations on the way Pennsylvania conducts its elections.

Created by the state legislature last year, the Election Law Advisory Board is expected to recommend improvements for voting to state lawmakers.

Most county election officials in both parties say the November election was pretty well-run despite millions of mail-in ballots, new rules and a pandemic. But they also say the legislature and governor could do more to help make the process smoother.

"We all lived through the 2020 election, and we saw the good, the bad and the ugly," Dan Vogler, one of the 23 members of the Advisory Board, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

The board met for the first time online. Its goal, says Vogler, also a Lawrence County commissioner: "Some streamlining to the manner in which elections are conducted, and personally what I am hoping will happen is a better level of consistency."

"Law is vague, so it's up for interpretation by each county, their solicitor, and their board of election," notes Melanie Ostrander, the Washington County elections director.

"So if the state legislators were to make everything much more clear and consistent, it would also alleviate a lot of the criticism."

Ostrander also says if you want results on election night, let them start processing these mail-in ballots before Election Day.

"That's going to be one of the primary issues that's looked at," Vogler promises.

Will we see problems with this year's election?

That's hard to predict, say election officials, as voter turnout could be higher than usual.

"2021 in past years was a light turnout, but with mail-in ballots if voters like the ease of them they may decide, I'm just going to vote," says Ostrander.

After all the recent acrimony, can Republicans and Democrats reach agreement on election reforms?

Delano: "Is that going to be a challenge?"
Vogler: "It will, but I don't believe it's an insurmountable challenge."

Other local members of the Election Law Advisory Board include Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa (Forest Hills), Jesse Daniel (Indiana), Ken Huston (Monroeville), Fayette County Commissioner Dave Lohr (Connellsville), and Andrew Sfezi (Mt. Lebanon).

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