In Georgia, the state’s voting machines have malfunctioned in three consecutive elections this year alone.
In Pennsylvania, election officials are staring down possibly the biggest ballot processing backlog in the country, with no means of even touching the ballots until polls open on Election Day.
And in North Carolina, thousands of submitted absentee ballots are currently in purgatory, neither rejected nor accepted but “under review,” amid a back-and-forth court battle over so-called ballot curing.
Short on money, overworked and under enormous pressure, many battleground states are still in the process of standing up their electoral systems, a building-a-plane-midflight reality for a democratic process that is being challenged daily by court cases, new laws and surges in the coronavirus….
Few states are still facing more litigation-driven uncertainty than Pennsylvania.
The state has had its plans to install drop boxes hung up in the courts for months; the question of whether it will be able to accept ballots that arrive after Election Day has been similarly stalled. The state legislature still hasn’t decided on allowing election officials to begin processing ballots early. And Kathy Boockvar, the secretary of state, is still awaiting guidance from the state Supreme Court as to whether election officials have to perform signature matching checks on absentee ballots.
“Pennsylvania is the one everyone is worried about,” said Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at M.I.T. who runs the university’s Election Data and Science Lab.
While all of this uncertainty might seemingly depress enthusiasm for mail ballots, Pennsylvania voters are still requesting them at a record clip. More than 2.7 million ballots have been requested, and about 683,000 have been returned. Yet at the moment, election officials in the state’s 67 counties cannot touch the ballots until Election Day, raising the likelihood that full results will not be known for days.
By law, Pennsylvania does not offer any form of in-person early voting. But Ms. Boockvar has worked with county officials to set up satellite elections offices where voters can come and vote by absentee ballot in person (as in, request a ballot in person, receive it, fill it out there and then drop it off). The offices are intended to expand voting options and help decrease an expected surge on Election Day. But so far, only five of the state’s 67 counties — Philadelphia, Centre, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — have set up offices.