Even with election called for Joe Biden, Pennsylvania’s presidential vote count goes on

Biden was up by 69,000 votes Monday afternoon, when at least 82,000 ballots remained uncounted.

  • Emily Previti

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania’s presidential vote count continues, more than a week after organizations called the contest for former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden was up 69,000 votes of nearly 6.9 million votes counted Monday afternoon.

At that point, 29,000 mailed ballots were uncounted, Pa. Department of State statistics show — plus more than 50,000 provisional ballots  according to counties’ responses to WITF’s inquiry and DoS data.

On top of that, 486,399 requested mailed ballots are still unaccounted for. 

Some could never be cast. 

But others might have arrived after polls closed Nov. 3 and before 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6. Anecdotal reports suggest the number of late-arriving is ballots is relatively low (39 counties report nearly 8,500 late arriving ballots between them to WITF). No matter how many, they aren’t included in results because state officials told counties to set them aside due to the Pennsylvania GOP’s ballot return deadline challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

That case is one of several exacerbating challenges facing election workers counting votes. 

Lynn Muchler-Stash, right, an observer with the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania watches as municipal workers sort and count Luzerne County ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

Lynn Muchler-Stash, right, an observer with the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania watches as municipal workers sort and count Luzerne County ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Status check

So far, provisional ballots are splitting in favor of the same candidate as overall votes, with few exceptions.

By Monday afternoon, provisional vote counts in the presidential race were available for 48 counties.

Biden’s claiming the majority of 70,554 provisional ballots counted overall in the presidential race so far and in 10 individual counties, including Trump-leaning Beaver County, according to WITF’s analysis of DoS data.

Trump’s claiming more provisionals in 38 counties, all of which he’s winning except Erie, Northampton and Lackawanna counties,

Provisional ballot counts for the presidential election aren’t yet available at all for 19 counties and aren’t yet complete in several more. That group includes Philadelphia and its suburbs, where Biden is winning overall and voters cast the majority of unprocessed provisional and mailed ballots.

Provisionals in context

During past elections, voters cast relatively few provisional ballots. They submitted so in Pennsylvania this year because of the state’s rapid shift to mail-in voting amid postal system delays, and without changes to state law election directors had warned were critical to an efficient vote count.

Most counties began processing provisionals early last week, with steps before that limited to getting an idea of how many voters cast and basic sorting for further processing. Late last week, hearings over challenges to provisional ballots began in earnest in majority Democratic counties seeing a high number of challenges from the Trump campaign.

The Associated Press called the race for Biden Nov. 7, when DoS data showed his margin eclipsing the recount benchmark of 0.5 percent.

In response to an inquiry from WITF for details how figured into projections, the AP provided an updated explanation of why the organization called Pennsylvania for Biden.

The AP examined provisional ballot splits from “Trump-leaning” counties and found the president gained votes through provisional ballots at lower rates than the rates at which counties elected him, according to the organization’s official statement. AP couldn’t confirm Saturday which counties’ ballots were used.

Several counties confirmed completing vetting provisional ballots as of Saturday: Cumberland, Montour, Monroe, Clearfield and Sullivan with about 3,500 ballots total between them.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect new election returns data and clarify provisional ballot rates comparison in the Associated Press analysis. 

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