HARRISBURG (CNN/KDKA) — Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State says officials will be talking with counties who say they’re waiting until Wednesday to count mail-in ballots.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said there seems to be only a couple of counties who are waiting, saying the “overwhelming majority” are planning to start “the moment they possibly can.”
“I want every one of them starting it on Election Day,” Boockvar says.
Unlike most states, Pennsylvania law does not allow officials to start processing early ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. Philadelphia and other areas plan to start work on their mail-in votes at 7 a.m. sharp, officials said, but swing counties like Erie and red ones like Cumberland are intending to wait until after the polls close or even until the next morning to begin.
Most states allow advance processing for early ballots, but two key states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, do not allow that until Election Day, leading to the potential for counting delays that stretch beyond November 3.
A Pennsylvania election official told CNN that counties are “strongly encouraged” to begin their work on the absentee ballots at 7 a.m. But even if they don’t, the official said the public would still have a good idea of what mail-in ballots are still outstanding at the time polls close and the party affiliation of those ballots. Counties can begin reporting the results at 8 p.m. after the polls close.
In Beaver County, they’ll begin counting mail-in ballots after Election Day, Commissioner Daniel Camp has been saying since the end of summer.
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Erie County, which swung toward Trump in 2016, plans to begin counting in-person votes when the polls close at 8 p.m., followed by tabulating absentee ballots around 11 p.m., according to Carl Anderson III, the chair of the Erie Board of Elections. Erie is planning to stop counting ballots around 2 a.m. on November 4 and restart later that morning.
Anderson said there’s a concern if the mail-in ballots are reported first, the results “out of the gate could look pretty skewed,” because those votes were expected to be heavily Democratic, based on ballots requested, and the county was trying to mitigate that effect.
Republican-run Cumberland County, which is outside Harrisburg, plans to report results from the polls only beginning at 8 p.m., and will not begin counting mail-in ballots until the following morning, according to Samantha Krepps, a spokeswoman for the county.
“On Election Day we will report the poll numbers, but we have three days to start the canvassing of the mail-in ballot. So, we took the opportunity to focus our attention on the election at the polls and then we will switch gears the next day,” Krepps told CNN. “It’s just a matter of getting the job done and we are focusing our attention on the polls because they are the most important thing on Election Day.”
Boockvar said Thursday that officials had a conversation with Cumberland County about exploring their options and a “hard fast decision” hadn’t been made about waiting until the morning.
Luzerne County manager David Pedri said the county, near Scranton, expects to tally all in-person ballots on November 3 but will likely only have some mail-in ballots counted that day.
In Philadelphia, however, mail-in votes will start being processed at 7 a.m., according to city commissioner Lisa Deeley.
“Everything will start getting counted,” Deeley said. “Results will start to go out after the polls close.”
Becky Bartlett, Northampton County’s deputy director of administration and public information officer, said early vote ballots will go through a scanner starting at 7 a.m., and the results will get tabulated after the polls closed, though it may take a couple of hours before they are reported. The county, outside Allentown, was hopeful they would finish their count that night, she said.
And in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, Commissioner Bob Harvie said the county is crafting a plan to begin processing mail-in ballots at 7 a.m., too. Harvie said that the county was trying to figure out “the most efficient way to get to the point where we can open a lot, scan,” expecting results would begin to be reported around 10 p.m. ET.
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