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Election staff anticipates big changes

Act 77 has brought a wealth of changes to voters in the Commonwealth.

It’s also going to shake things up behind the scenes for county election staff.

Elections Director Lisa Rivett outlined those changes to the commissioners during a work session held on Tuesday.

One of the most impactful would appear to be no-excuse mail-in voting. Those applications come across Rivett’s desk, whether submitted in person, via mail or online.

“(I’m) getting phone calls… every five minutes,” she said, from people who want a mail-in ballot. “It’s going to take off really big I think.”

A host of other items were discussed but how — and when — to report election results drew a significant amount of discussion.

“Some counties aren’t going to start counting anything until the next morning,” Rivett said. “That’s a Board of Elections meeting discussion.”

The Board of Elections is set to meet on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. to discuss merging two polling places, an amendment with the voting machine company, among others.

Eggleston noted that the Act 77 changes will result in the counting process taking longer and Rivett noted that the mail-in and absentee ballots cannot be opened until after polling places close on election night.

Solicitor Nathaniel Schmidt said he would review in advance of Wednesday’s meeting whether the Board of Elections — the commissioners unless they are up for election — can delegate the adjudication process.

Rivett noted there will be two scanners at the courthouse compared to one last fall which could speed up the counting process. Eggleston cautioned that if mail-in and absentee votes aren’t included in preliminary election night results, it would be possible for inaccurate conclusions to be drawn on the results.

On a more positive note, Rivett noted that $50,000 of the first lease payment for the new machines — totaling $65,089,87 — will be reimbursed by state bond funding and said the state took out an additional bond to help counties off set the cost, though details on that second bond remain unclear.

“Everything is more documentation,” Commissioner Tricia Durbin said. “More flexibility for the voter which creates (less) flexibility for us.”

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