Appointees from the Republican and Democratic committees of Union County won’t be volunteering as election staff to help in pre-canvassing mail-in ballots as they had done in the spring primary.

Republican Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Conner said the state party’s legal team recommended county committees not appoint members to volunteer in pre-canvassing — physically assisting elections staff in opening ballot envelopes and sorting ballots on Election Day Nov. 3. She said they’ll have appointees simply observe the process.

“It is a matter with how it hampers the party should there be a question if the party wants to challenge an aspect of the process,” Conner said, adding that such discussions were happening before the June primary. “We won’t be putting our people in as election staff.”

As a result, Greg Katherman, director of elections and voter registration, said he won’t allow Democrats to pre-canvass either.

“It doesn’t look right to me. I don’t want anybody having any ammunition,” Katherman said, explaining he’ll appoint additional volunteers internally.

Conner and Rick Thomas, chairman of the county Democrat Committee, said appointees from each party worked in bipartisan teams last spring to pre-canvass mail-in ballots. They’re sworn-in to do so, both said.

County election officials said more than 3,000 mail-in ballots were received for the June primary. That number stands to double for the general election. Katherman said more than 5,600 ballots were mailed to county residents in an initial wave, which he said began arriving in mailboxes Tuesday, Oct. 13. He expects more ballots to follow up until the Oct. 27 deadline to request a mail-in ballot.

Mail-in voting was opened up to all voters in Pennsylvania for the first time this year.

Thomas said he believes the move by the Republicans is meant to drag out the election process. He said the staff will have to not only pre-canvass the ballots but address any issues arising from that process and any issues potentially arising at each of the county’s 26 live polling sites.

In past years before mail-in voting was opened to everyone, Thomas said party volunteers helped in pre-canvassing absentee and military ballots, which number substantially fewer than what will be sent to election offices across the state this year.

“It’s Trump logic. It’s their way of having an excuse to complain when they don’t win,” Thomas said. “It’s silly. We’ve never had a problem working in this county to county ballots.”

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