A petition calling for all votes in Pennsylvania, including provisional ballots, to be counted despite the GOP’s efforts to block them is approaching 150,000 signatures.
The petition, launched by Pittsburgh-based community organizer Eva Resnick-Day, approached 130,000 names early Thursday as the counting of votes continued in the major swing states that will decide the presidential election.
Most of the votes now deciding the race in one direction or another are absentee ballot papers. In some states they are counted after the personal vote on election day. Pennsylvania is especially close, and its 20 votes from the electoral college could be the key to the White House.
These absentee ballots have favored Democratic candidate Joe Biden and brought him victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, putting him within reach of President Donald Trump’s leadership in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Resnick-Day’s Pennsylvania petition focuses on provisional ballots, which are cast when there are questions about a person’s eligibility to be elected. These questions must be resolved before the vote can be counted, which means it can take several days before the vote is registered.
“The voters we reached were voters who never received their mail by ballot and were not sure where to go to have their vote counted. Voters who didn’t even know they were on a mail-in voting list and were told to hand in provisional ballots at the election,” Resnick-Day wrote.
“Voters with disabilities, with weakened immune systems, elderly or sick people who either did not receive their mail-in ballots or whose ballots were not delivered by mail, and who needed coordinated assistance to have their ballots counted,” she added. “Despite these hurdles, we have seen a record turnout. Every single one of these votes must be counted”.
Those who use provisional ballots are more likely to be those disenfranchised by strict electoral laws, including minorities and those who cannot immediately prove their identity or place of residence.
A 2014 report by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress found that counties with a high percentage of minority voters used more provisional ballots than predominantly white counties. The same report found that about a quarter of provisional ballots were rejected.
Republicans in Pennsylvania are suing to prevent those voters whose ballots were rejected from submitting provisional ballots instead. They argue that state election laws that prevent officials from announcing early results prohibit informing those voters that their ballots have been rejected.
“Republicans are currently working doggedly through the courts to invalidate tens of thousands of votes of hard-working Pennsylvania voters who simply missed their ‘secrecy envelope’ or signature and appeared in person to correct this,” the petition says. “All these voters deserve to have their voice and their votes heard.
The Trump campaign – their road to victory – has taken legal action to try and stop the vote count in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, and is calling for a recount in Wisconsin, which was called for Biden.
The President and his allies have long laid the groundwork for challenging the election results, including by spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about absentee balloting and election fraud. The president has repeatedly claimed electoral fraud against him since the conclusion of the elections, but has not presented any evidence to support this claim.
The race is razor-thin, and the result could amount to tens of thousands of votes. Trump supporters are already protesting outside the counting centers to stop counting in the areas where the president is ahead and continue counting where he is behind. Meanwhile, democratic and pro-democracy demonstrators are gathering to demand the counting of all votes.
In 2016 more than 2.4 million provisional ballots were cast, of which about 800,000 were rejected. The 2016 Congressional Cooperative Elections Survey found that 60.1 percent of respondents who claimed to have cast a provisional ballot referred to themselves as Democrats.
In 2016, almost three