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Even With Election Called For Joe Biden, Pennsylvania’s Presidential Vote Count Goes On

Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania’s presidential vote count continues, even as news organizations have called the contest for former Vice President Joe Biden.


Biden was up nearly 44,329 votes – a fraction of the number of ballots left to be processed – Monday afternoon.

At that point, county election workers had more than 52,697 mailed ballots to go, Pa. Department of State statistics show. 

The Associated Press was first to call the race late Saturday morning, in large part because that’s when DoS data updated and showed Biden’s margin eclipsing the recount benchmark of 0.5 percent.

In response to an inquiry from WITF for details how provisional ballots 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.

So far, 61 counties have reported about 122,000 provisionals in response to WITF’s inquiry.

As of Monday afternoon, 14 counties had processed nearly than 9,000 between them, according to WITF’s analysis of county responses and  Pennsylvania Department of State data.

Of those, a dozen had reported provisional ballot counts to DoS Monday. Provisional ballots went for Trump at lower rates than rates at which counties elected him in five counties and higher rates in seven, according to WITF’s analysis.

Most counties began processing provisionals today or will tomorrow, with steps before that limited to getting an idea of how many voters cast and basic sorting for further processing. Berks likely won’t start until Thursday. 

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.

On top of that, 463,200 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. They wouldn’t show up in results because state officials told counties to set them aside because of 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. 


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


Emily Previti is a podcast producer and data journalist for Kouvenda Media.
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