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Allegheny County Certifies November Election Results

Lucy Perkins
90.5 WESA
Election workers review ballots earlier this month.

The 2020 general election results were made official in Allegheny County on Monday morning when the Board of Elections voted to certify the results -- even though a court order hours later will require the board to adjust its total.

The propriety of counting some 3,307 mail-in, absentee or provisional ballots has been challenged in court. Those votes are unlikely to impact the outcome of the presidential race, in which Joe Biden holds a lead of more than 81,000 votes over Donald Trump. But some of the remaining ballots could decide a tight race for the state legislature. As of Monday morning, incumbent Jim Brewster had a one-vote lead over Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli in the 45th state Senate district.

The lion’s share of the ballots not included in the certification are part of a lawsuit filed by Ziccarelli. The declaration envelopes for these ballots were undated by voters, though the ballots were time-stamped when they arrived at the county, and those stamps show the ballots were received on or before Election Day. Pennsylvania election code requires ballots to be signed and dated by the voter, which Zicarelli argued makes these ballots invalid. 

But hours after Allegheny County certified its results, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Monday that the undated ballots should be counted. The court wrote that Pennsylvania election code supports the “longstanding and overriding policy in this Commonwealth to protect the elective franchise.” The court also said that while state law says voters “shall” sign and date their mail-in ballot, “shall” does not indicated that dating the ballot mandatory.

That will require the county Board of Elections to meet again to amend its certification. But on Monday, the three-member board voted 2-1 to certify the rest of results, with Republican County Councilor Sam DeMarco voting no.

Allegheny County officials said Monday that 326 of those ballots were from voters in the 45th state Senate district. Of those, 202 were for Brewster, 108 for Ziccarelli.

But the disposition of some other Allegheny County votes is yet to be decided. 

Other categories that were not included in the certification: 708 mail-in and absentee ballots that were received between Nov. 3 and Nov. 6 that were postmarked by Election Day, and 23 that were received in that same timeframe without a postmark. Those ballots are at the center of another lawsuit: Pennsylvania Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that extended the deadline for mail-in ballots by three days (Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.) An additional 254 provisional ballots have been challenged.

State law requires counties to wait until 20 days after an election to make the results official.

* This story was upated at 4:17 p.m. on Monday, November 23 to reflect the impact of a state Supreme Court ruling.