Eight Pa. counties have yet to count outstanding mail-in ballots; Sec. Boockvar says she doesn’t expect they’ll ‘make or break’ state election results

Written by on November 6, 2020

Eight Pa. counties have yet to count outstanding mail-in ballots; Sec. Boockvar says she doesn’t expect they’ll ‘make or break’ state election results

By Sam Dunklau , WITF

November 6, 2020

Please be patient: We most likely won’t know the results of the Nov. 3 election in Pa. and across the country for several days. Click here for all of our election coverage and results as we get them.

Chester County, Pa., election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 general election in the United States at West Chester University, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in West Chester., Pa.  Matt Slocum / AP Photo

Several Pennsylvania counties are choosing to separate — but not count — mail-in ballots postmarked on Election Day and arriving through Friday. That’s contrary to guidance from the Department of State.

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As of Thursday evening, most of the state’s mail-in ballots have arrived at county election offices and are being counted. The Department of State said any ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive by Friday at 5 p.m. must be counted and separated.

But eight counties say they are waiting to count them. Lancaster, Montour, Snyder, Northumberland, Cumberland, Chester, Lebanon, and Mercer counties all confirmed they are proceeding that way.

Some, like Snyder County Commissioner Joe Kantz, say it’s a way to avoid counting votes twice. In an interview with NPR reporter Barbara Sprunt, Kantz cited how a mail-in voter may have cast a ballot on Election Day because their ballot didn’t arrive in time.

“We can’t make a determination on their provisional ballot until we know for sure if we get their mail-in ballot, which would have precedent,” he said.

Northumberland County Elections Director Nathan Savidge told Sprunt any ballot that has shown up since Tuesday night has been separated, but not counted, in hope of more guidance.

“All we have to do is get the go ahead. We’re just waiting on the green light to scan them into the system,” Savidge said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m disenfranchising people. I’m just waiting on what the state wants us to do.”

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says it is possible for counties to both separate and count those ballots as soon as they arrive. On Wednesday, she advised counties to confirm that technological capability with their voting machine vendors.

Lancaster County commissioners said outstanding mail ballots will be counted by early next week in the absence of further guidance. In an email, Chester County election leaders said they will begin counting them on Friday. The others that are not counting yet did not say when their outstanding ballots will be tabulated.

Some counties indicated they have not received many ballots since Election Day. Lebanon County sent out 27,500 ballots for voters to cast by mail and received more than 22,000 by Election Day, according to Department of State data. Its election office said 2,500 more ballots have arrived since then.

Boockvar told CNN on Thursday that mail-in ballots received after Election Day are not likely to determine the outcome of the election unless the race is “super close.”

“Unless it is super close, I don’t see them making this or breaking this one way or another,” she said.

The Wolf administration has repeatedly said every vote cast in the election must be counted.

This story is part of a collaboration between WLVR News and Lehigh University’s Department of Journalism & Communication. View all student stories.

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