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Local counties unable to start prepping mail-in ballots, creating massive backlog

BEAVER CO., Pa. — Counties across Pennsylvania have spent months calling on state lawmakers to let them pre-canvas mail-in ballots, which could allow for results to be counted and announced on Election Day.

As it stands a few weeks ahead of Nov. 3, that is still prohibited -- putting smaller counties like Beaver in a difficult position.

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Thousands of mail-in ballots have gone out, and counties are starting to get them back from voters. For now, those envelopes will continue to pile up, untouched, until Election Day.

“That creates a tremendous burden on trying to get results done accurately and quickly for the public to know who won the election. It’s going to take us a few days to get through those," said Beaver Co. Commissioner Jack Manning.

It took three days for Beavery County to tally results from the June primary, when 18,000 mail-in ballots were cast. The current law prohibits election offices to count mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day -- which involved taking ballots out of their envelopes so they can be scanned and counted quickly once the polls close.

Manning said it’s a manual and time-consuming process, so it will be difficult to deal with the increase as it stands right now.

Sources confirm to Channel 11 there are ongoing conversations between Republican and Democratic state lawmakers about giving counties more time to process mail-in ballots, but no agreement is in place yet.

Pa.'s secretary of state will allow larger counties, like Allegheny -- where more than 330,000 mail-in ballots have been requested -- to count votes 24 hours per day once the polls close.

But that’s not an option for Beaver, where Manning expects it will be an all-hands-on deck situation.

“We’re planning on the idea that we’ll just start opening those up at 7 a.m. I plan on being there pitching in along with some other people in the Election Department to open those up and get them ready for scanning," he said.

Lawmakers still have some time to reach a compromise. One senator said they have until the week before Election Day to implement pre-canvassing, leaving several weeks to reach an agreement.