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House Approves Changes to Absentee Voter Counting Boards

Feb 21, 2020

Legislation passed the House this week that aims at helping local clerks deal with the anticipated influx of absentee ballots. Introduced by Representative Julie Calley (R-Portland) the bill would allow local governments to team up with other nearby communities, or the county, to establish an Absentee Voter (AV) counting board. Currently, AV boards are allowed under law, however, communities can only complete the process on their own.

Currently, absentee ballots can be processed either at each precinct or in an absentee voter counting board. When they are processed in the precinct, election workers typically feed absentee ballots into the voting machines during lulls or after polls close. In contrast, AV counting boards focus solely on processing absentee ballots all day long. Workers are trained and required to sign an oath not to reveal vote tallies until after polls close. Additionally, counting boards must have election inspectors representing both parties, just as polling places do.

Following the approval of PA 3 of 2018 by voters, which enacted no-reason absentee voting, local clerks have voiced concern about their ability to process absent voter ballots in a timely manner. For the upcoming March elections, numerous clerks have reported a sharp increase in the number of requested absentee ballots by residents.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Elections Committee for consideration.

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