Decision 2020

Uncertainty Surrounds Election Night in November, Pa. Top Official Says

Pennsylvania's Secretary of State, in charge of state elections, told NBC10 she is not sure results on Election Day in November will be known that night.

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It took two weeks, but Philadelphia's 160,000 mail-in ballots are finally all counted.

That's what the official elections page for the city said Sunday night. On the same page is a running clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds till the November presidential election, when many thousands more voters are expected to cast ballots than the number of people who went to the polls June 2.

140 days and counting, the clock read Monday, and Pennsylvania's head of elections isn't sure yet what to expect come the next Election Day.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told NBC10 in an interview that, at this point, she doesn't think the outcome of the presidential election in Pennsylvania will be decided by the end of the night on Nov. 3.

"I would say, yes go in with that expectation," she said. "And then if that expectation ends up being wrong, and you do find out that night – great."

Boockvar said she believes the election this month went smoothly, if not quickly, and that had much to do with the new mail-in ballot system.

About 1.8 million Pennsylvanians cast mail-in ballots in the primary election, roughly 10 times the amount of absentee ballots cast in the last election.

It was the first time in Pennsylvania that mail-in ballots were allowed after the state Legislature approved their use last year. But no one saw the perfect storm of issues arriving in the first election that mail-in ballots would be available to voters.

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Election Day was pushed back from its original April date and many of Pennsylvania's counties are still getting used to voting machines used for only the second time, including Philadelphia and some surrounding counties like Montgomery County.

Boockvar said Gov. Tom Wolf's administration will push for the state Legislature to allow counties to begin counting mail-in ballots even before Election Day in November to get a head start.

"If the Legislature allows for earlier pre-canvassing of those ballots, I can't tell you how helpful that would be," Boockvar said. "That would be a sea change in Pennsylvania's ability to count (votes) more quickly."

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