Pennsylvania officials are encouraging counties to count ballots for mailings and absences on election day after several counties said they would begin counting the next day based on resources and space.
During a press conference on Friday, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she was “talking” with at least seven counties, which reported that they would begin counting ballots on the Wednesday after election day.
“It will be very difficult for the larger counties to do this on election day, but I want every single one of them to start counting on election day,” Boockvar told reporters. The law allows the districts to start the preliminary examination or opening and scanning of postal ballots on November 3 at 7 a.m. Voting or the actual counting and recording of votes cannot begin before 8 p.m. on election day, after polling stations have closed.
Governor Tom Wolf repeated Boockvar’s comment, saying he believed that it would be “better, faster and more efficient if the counties began counting as soon as possible.
Wolf reported that more than 2.1 million postal ballots have been received and about a million more could be returned as the election approaches. Because of the unusually high number of ballots received by mail during this election, it could take the district election officials considerably longer to count them.
Pennsylvania’s role as a major battleground state makes the process even more critical, as the nation may depend on the state and its 20 votes to know who will be the next president. Recent polls in Pennsylvania show a close presidential race.
Counties will continue to accept postal ballots after November 3 through Friday this week. The three-day extension was challenged by the Pennsylvania GOP, which again appealed to the Supreme Court, asking for an expedited review of an appeal against the extension, which the court had blocked by 4-4 votes earlier this month. The court refused to grant the request on Wednesday because there was not enough time to decide the case, which was still open after the elections.
Boockvar instructed the districts to discard the ballots received during the three-day extension period after the election, as the matter is still pending in court.
“The secretary continues to defend the extension to ensure that every timely and validly submitted postal ballot and every absence ballot is counted,” Boockvar wrote earlier this week in a guide for the districts.
In response to the districts’ explanation that they may lack the resources needed to begin the primary election process on the morning of the election, Boockvar explained that this year “more resources are available than ever before. Two federal grants were made available this year, of which Boockvar said the state had subsidized the counties with $13 million.
“Most counties have not even taken advantage of these funds,” she said. Boockvar also noted dollars from the private philanthropy foundation that the counties could apply for.
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman tweeted earlier this week that the counties should begin the process as soon as possible.
“I believe that each county should begin mailing ballots at 7 a.m. on election day,” he wrote, “This is not a political statement. This is and was the intention of the law. Count all votes at the same time.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday that his office is also urging precincts to begin counting ballots on Tuesday.
“The only accurate count is the one that takes into account every single eligible vote,” he said. “This may take some time. And whether you voted in person on election day or by mail a few days ago, your vote counts equally.
Tekk.tv contacted the offices of Boockvar and Shapiro to comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.