Counties across the swing state of Pennsylvania have a range of strategies to tackle an expected record volume of mail-in and absentee ballots next week, though it is likely to produce fluctuations in reporting the results in the days following the election
Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states where the ballot counting process cannot begin until the morning of Election Day – a cumbersome process that includes pre-canvassing and verifying ballots before they are even tallied.
Pre-canvassing, which is allowed to start days before Nov. 3 in other states, includes sorting, verifying and other processes that precede actually counting the vote.
In the Keystone State, tuttavia, state law prohibits mail-in and absentee ballots from being processed until 7 a.m. ET on Election Day.
From there, it is up to the counties to decide when to begin processing them.
In Cumberland County, the canvassing of mail-in and absentee ballots will begin on Nov. 4 a 9 a.m. E, the day after the general election, officials said in a press release.
This strategy is intended to allow the county to focus on operating polling places smoothly and to give equal attention to votes cast in each manner.
In Erie County, an election official told CNN it planned to start tabulating absentee ballots at 11 p.m. ET il nov. 3.
An Erie County spokesperson told Fox News that the county would not have any numbers to report until after the close of the polls on Election Day.
Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, un repubblicano, told Fox News it was important to officials in his county that they start processing mail-in ballots straight away in order to have results as quickly as possible.
In Bucks County, workers will begin opening and extracting ballots from envelopes promptly at 7 a.m. ET and they will be scanned beginning at 2 p.m. E. The count will begin after 8 p.m. E, according to DiGirolamo, who expects the first vote total will be reported at 10 p.m. ET – consisting of a combination of in-person and mailed-in votes.
Bucks County had around 200,000 application for mail-in and absentee ballots.
Since more Democrats have requested mail-in and absentee ballots when compared with Republicans, DiGirolamo said that it’s likely initial poll numbers in Pennsylvania will favor President Trump over Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Those numbers would be expected to shift as more mail-in ballots are processed and counted.
Besides the fact that counties have different timelines for processing ballots received by mail, the Supreme Court recently ruled that ballots can be counted through Friday Nov. 6, so long as they were postmarked by Election Day, which could prolong the mail-in ballot counting process.
There is concern that the longer it takes Pennsylvania to tally its official vote count, the higher the likelihood is that there will be a legal challenge over the voting process, especially considering the outcome in the state is could be critical in determining the winner in the presidential race.