“Pennsylvania could be a center of chaos this election. It didn’t have to be this way.”

The Washington Post has published this new op-ed of mine. As readers here know, I made my efforts to change this situation, now all that’s left is to assign blame:

Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor and Republican legislature will both deserve blame for hurtling the country toward a potential election nightmare should the election be close. In a perfect example of the dysfunction that plagues so much of our governing process, their failure has made Pennsylvania a likely center of chaos in a close election….

Grasping this reality, many states changed their laws to permit election officials to tackle ballots earlier than normal…

But not Pennsylvania. The governor and legislature recently made sure of that by failing to reach any agreement on this issue, despite state election administrators from both parties pleading for them to do so. If only 5 percent of voters had cast their ballots by mail, as in past Pennsylvania elections, this would not be a problem. But with as many as 3 million absentee ballots on their way, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Both sides in Pennsylvania understood this problem and appeared to want to change it. Yet they failed in their public responsibility, to Pennsylvania and the country. The legislature was prepared to permit the process to begin three days before Election Day. This period would have made a significant difference in how quickly Pennsylvania could process these ballots and include many of them in the vote totals it released on election night. It would have been the difference between waiting two days for a full count or five days.

But Republicans in the legislature insisted on packaging this critical proposal with other voting policies they wanted changed. Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) argued that election officials be able to start 21 days in advance and was not willing to accept the policy changes the legislature was demanding.

In states that permit early processing, such as Florida, it has been going on quietly for almost three weeks. That early start has minimized political struggles over the validity of ballots. When polls close in Florida, the state will be able quickly to include most of its absentee ballots in its election night count.

But Pennsylvania is sitting on a tinderbox. In a close election, the state will be critical. Scorched-earth struggles over absentee ballots will erupt, with incentives on one side to drag that process out as long as possible. I am doubtful the country will sit patiently if Pennsylvania takes a week to figure out its vote. All this brought to you by a governor and legislature who provide a textbook example of much of what’s wrong with our politics.

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