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Pennsylvania Vote Counting Guide

Last Updated: November 5th, 2020

Updates on Pennsylviania's Count

Key Takeaway: Pennslyvania is the most likely state to be a counting nightmare. November 6, is when vote counting is expected to be mostly completed according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, the top election official in the state. Mail ballots postmarked by by Nov. 3 can be received on Nov. 6. If the election comes down to Pennsylvania, we will not know the result until Friday at the earliest.

Polls Close - 8pm

Votes Counted - Election Day

Final Certification - December 1

The Big Number: 2.5 million mail ballots have been returned.
But 500,000 are yet to be returned. (Pennsylvania Data)

Pennsylvania could be the pivotal state to decide the presidency accordig to several scenarios. It is also the state most likely to have delays in counting and legal challenges in a very close race. The Governor and Sec. of State, who run elections, are Democrats, and the legislature that could decide a disputed election is Republican-controlled.

5% of Pennsylvania voters normally vote by mail, but any voter could this election and 1.5 million Democrats have taken advantage of this as well as 500,000 Republicans. The rules govenring counting these votes remain the same, a problem in several states including Wisconsin and Michigan – procedures designed to count and report a small number of votes by mail not keeping up with the post-Covid voting reality.

What to Watch For

  • The number of ballots rejected becuase they are missing the inner-secrecy envelope or for signature issues could be crucial in a close race and lead to litigation.
  • Absentee ballots arriving after Nov. 3 (with postmark), but by Nov. 6 can be counted, but must be segragated in case the courts rule on their inclusion in a close race.
  • Mail results from the two biggest cities, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh will start when polls close but officials already have plans to release results in waves on Wednesday morning.
  • But seven mid-size and small counties are delaying counting mail ballots until in-person votes are counted and in some case even until Wednesday.
  • Erie County, a swing county that could be crucial has said they may not be done counting this week.

Mail Ballots

No pre-processing of absentee ballots. This means election officials cannot get the ballots ready to feed into scanners until Election Day.

  • Can start processing at 7AM on Election Day
  • Can start counting at 7AM on Election Day
  • Can start reporting once polls close 8PM on Election Day
  • PA Supreme Court ruled ballots must include the inner 'secrecy envelope' to be valid.
  • Sec. of State has said count should be completed by Friday, but some counties say they may take until Monday, Nov. 9.
  • Military ballots can arrive up to one week after Election Day.

Results Timetable

  • Estimate for full unofficial results: Nov. 6
  • By Nov. 5, 9:00 a.m. - Boards of county canvassers meet to canvass November general election.
  • By Nov. 17 - Boards of county canvassers complete canvass of November general election; county clerks forward results to Secretary of State within 24 hours.
  • By Nov. 23 - Board of State Canvassers meet to canvass November general election.

Philadelphia Reporting Schedule

Election Day

  • Polls close: first report of mail ballots
  • Late Election Night: in-person votes and more mail ballots

Nov. 4

  • 9:30 or 10AM
  • 3:30 or 4PM
  • 9:30 or 10PM


When will you find out election results? It may take some time, but that’s OK

We may not know who won the presidential election on Tuesday night. And if so, it does not necessarily mean anything is broken, fraudulent, corrupted or wrong.


‘It’s Just Crazy’ in Pennsylvania: Mail Voting and the Anxiety That Followed

A county northeast of Pittsburgh is a microcosm of the high tension, confusion and deep uncertainty that have accompanied the expansion of mail-in voting.

Trip Gabriel  —NYTimes

When will Philly and its suburbs report mail ballot results? Here’s what to expect

Election boards in the region will release periodic updates starting right after polls close Tuesday.

Billy Penn Staff  —Billy Penn

Pa. Secretary of State: Election will not be called by Tuesday

The results of the election will not be called Tuesday night — and that’s no different from previous years, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reiterated Monday morning. “It takes time for votes to be counted,” said Boockvar. “Elections are never called – they’re never finished on electi…

Teghan Simonton  —

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