Wolf administration urges patience as counties chip away at mail-in ballots

By: - November 4, 2020 11:53 am

Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar implored Pennsylvanians on Wednesday to be patient waiting for final results from the 2020 election, as counties approached the half-way point in counting more than 2.5 million mail-in ballots. 

“This delay is a sign that the process is working,” Wolf said, acknowledging that Pennsylvanians are accustomed to seeing near-complete vote results on election night.

State data show that counties received a cumulative 2.5 million mail-in ballots by the time polls closed on Tuesday. They had counted roughly 1.2 million of those ballots by 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, or 47 percent of the total mail-in vote. 

Pennsylvania’s election code prohibits counties from opening those ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day. 

The Republican-controlled Legislature did not heed the calls of election officials this year who said that law needed to change if they were going to provide the public with near-complete results on election night.

Boockvar said voters would see more results emerge throughout the day Wednesday as counties continue their work. 

Nearly one-third of counties had not reported any results to the state by Wednesday morning. Some counties are not publishing any mail-in ballot results until they have completed the entire count; others are posting results in batches as they make progress. 

Boockvar also noted that some election boards post results to their county websites before reporting them to the state.

Officials expect that counties will see their volume of mail-in ballots rise slightly this week, since a state Supreme Court order allows counties to accept ballots that arrive up in the mail until 5 p.m. on Nov. 5.

That order is the subject of a pending challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court, however, and may be overturned. Boockvar has instructed counties to count those ballots but to segregate them from others that arrived by 8 p.m. on Election Day. 

Boockvar also offered clarity Wednesday on a scenario that has been a concern among Republicans challenging the state Supreme Court, telling reporters that counties could accept ballots they receive in the mail by Friday even if the ballot lacked a postmark. 

Boockvar said it’s unlikely that a piece of mail  would lack a postmark, but that the state supreme court order allows technically those ballots to be counted “as long as there is no affirmative evidence it was postmarked after Nov. 3.”

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.