PA election results could take ‘days,’ secretary of the commonwealth says

The results of Pennsylvania’s midterm elections could take “days” to be tabulated, a state official said Wednesday.

Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman told NBC’s Chuck Todd that due to a state law limiting when mail-in ballots can begin counting, official results for crucial races for the U.S. Senate and the governor’s mansion will not be available on election night.

“Days, and it’s hard to estimate,” Chapman told Todd on “Meet the Press NOW” when asked how long it might take to declare a winner in a race that could decide which party controls The Senate.

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The acting secretary added that the state has received about half of the 1.3 million absentee and mail-in ballots requested by Pennsylvania voters. These ballots cannot be opened before 7 on Election Day, unlike other states that “pre-canvass” mail-in ballots.

“The best we can do is just manage expectations and let voters know that election officials need to do their job,” Chapman said, adding that “delays in results don’t mean something bad is happening.”

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Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of State, Leigh Chapman
Official results for the U.S. Senate and the governor’s mansion will not be available on election night, according to Secretary of State Leigh Chapman.
AP/Marc Levy
ballot papers
The results of Pennsylvania’s midterm elections may take longer than expected.
AP/ Matt Rourke

In the 2020 presidential election, most news organizations did not declare Joe Biden the winner in Pennsylvania until November 7, four days after Election Day. Donald Trump began with a lead in the Keystone State on election night in 2020 before votes from Democrat-leaning Philadelphia and absentee ballots began to be counted, eventually pushing Biden ahead.

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In Pennsylvania’s Senate race, Democrat John Fetterman is narrowly polling ahead of his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. A Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Fetterman leading Oz by 1.3 percentage points.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant John Fetterman,
Pennsylvania Lt. Govt. John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.
AP/Patrick Semansky
Republican Pennsylvania Senate nominee Dr.  Mehmet Oz
Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Getty Images/Mark Makela

“It doesn’t mean that ballots will appear out of nowhere,” Chapman said of the expected delay in announcing the results of the race.

“It’s because of that limitation where we can’t start pre-processing or collecting those votes until election morning,” she said.

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