Editorial: Let’s cut the politics and speed up vote counting

Six days and counting. Still counting.

That’s the story of the Pennsylvania race to the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, the decision between Dave McCormick and Dr. Mehmet Oz — the leading two candidates on a crowded slate of GOP candidates.

The votes were cast by 8 p.m. May 17. As of Monday night, there was still no winner.

This is becoming all too common. The whole country had its eyes on the counting in Pennsylvania in 2020 with the winner of the presidency hanging in the balance.

So why? Ballots used to be counted all in one day — or night. What has changed? And why this race?

Pennsylvania’s 2022 primary was important, with lots of interest and lots at stake. The nominations on each ticket for the Senate were only half the story. The gubernatorial slots were also in play. So were all of the congressional seats that had just been stirred up by the decennial redistricting.

But it didn’t take so long to figure out that
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman roundly beat U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, despite being in the hospital after a stroke and implantation of a defibrillating pacemaker. It didn’t take long to sort through the GOP’s long list of Republicans running for governor and name state Sen. Doug Mastriano as the winner.

With people voting via ballots that could be submitted weeks before Election Day or via machine, why isn’t this process so streamlined that a winner can be determined with pinpoint accuracy within 24 hours or considerably less?

Nationwide, the electoral process has been questioned in some corners. Mastriano himself has questioned it both at home and in Arizona, where he was on hand for the 2021 recount of ballots in the presidential race. In Pennsylvania, a 2019 attempt to reform voting via Act 77 was passed with bipartisan support and the governor’s signature but was subsequently challenged after the 2020 election by a number of the very Republicans who originally supported it.

For decades, Pennsylvania had no problem counting its votes quickly and perfunctorily, the way votes should be counted. The process should be as efficient and passionless as bean-counting and button-pushing, so perhaps it is the increased integration of messy, sticky, cluttered politics that is gumming up the gears.

If the politics can be excised, maybe we can get back to a place where we can do the simplest math as quickly as possible.

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