Pennsylvania officials ask for patience as ballot count continues

About 50 percent of the state’s mail-in ballots have been counted so far and authorities say a final tally could take days.

An election worker counts mail-in ballots in Chester County, Pennsylvania, US, November 4, 2020 [Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters] (Reuters)
An election worker counts mail-in ballots in Chester County, Pennsylvania, US, November 4, 2020 [Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters] (Reuters)

Malvern, Pennsylvania, United States – Hours after Election Day voting came to a close in the United States elections, officials in the battleground state of Pennsylvania said it could take days to count all the remaining ballots – and not to expect final results on Wednesday.

Before noon local time (17:00 GMT), President Donald Trump had a solid lead in the state, but Democratic candidate Joe Biden could still win as mail ballots are likely to skew blue.

Only about 50 percent of the state’s mail votes have been counted so far, said Pennsylvania Commonwealth Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

“We are exactly where we said we would be,” said Boockvar, who emphasised that the election went smoothly with no major issues. “We said it was going to take some time to count the mail ballots.”

An election worker is seen as mail-in ballots are counted in Chester County, Pennsylvania [Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters]

That was echoed by Governor Tom Wolf, who said “the delay that we’re seeing is a sign that the system is working”.

“We may not know the results even today, but the most important thing is that we have accurate results, even if that takes a little longer than we’re used to,” Wolf said during a press briefing Wednesday morning.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Trump accused the Democrats of trying to steal the election and said he would use the Supreme Court to stop ballots from being counted.

Rebecca Green, a lawyer specialising in election law, said there is nothing strange about the fact that the ballot count was ongoing.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about the vote count going past election night and results simply are not official until states certify those, which can take a week to 10 days after the election,” she told Al Jazeera.

Onlookers should patiently wait for all the ballots to be counted and take comfort in the fact there were no huge problems in Pennsylvania’s election, Green said.

However, she said two major legal disputes about Pennsylvania ballots could resurface, depending on how close the final results are in the state.

The first involves whether mail ballots that were sent in by Election Day but arrive up to three days later can still be counted.

State officials said Wednesday that millions of mail ballots still need to be counted in Pennsylvania [Matt Slocum/AP]

Ballots mailed after Election Day won’t count, Green explained, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that ballots mailed on Election Day that arrive up to three days later would still be tallied.

There was a challenge to whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had the authority to make such a ruling, and the US Supreme Court said it would not intervene either way in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision.

Still, Green said the issue of whether these ballots count could surface again if the number of these ballots is enough to make a difference in the outcome. “Then it could become a very live dispute,” she said.

Ballot curing

Another piece of litigation that Green said she is watching is a challenge to the way some Pennsylvania jurisdictions have allowed voters to “cure” their ballots – allowing voters to fix mistakes that would otherwise invalidate their votes, such as problems with their signatures, for example.

Green said that process is potentially a violation because Pennsylvania either must let everyone cure their ballot or no one. “You just can’t do it selectively,” she said.

We may not know the results even today, but the most important thing is that we have accurate results, even if that takes a little longer than we're used to.

Tom Wolf, governor of Pennsylvania

If the final ballot count is close in Pennsylvania, a candidate can request a recount, she said. A candidate could also contest the results by alleging fraud or misconduct, but in that case, they would need evidence of those allegations, she added.

Wolf, the governor, said he had faith that Pennsylvania would see a fair election.

“The promise of Democracy is that every vote counts … and I intend here in Pennsylvania to keep that promise,” he said.

“I will do everything within my power to ensure the results are fair and that every vote is counted.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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