Media reports and statements of public officials are creating an avalanche of perception that whatever vote totals exist on Tuesday night are somehow dispositive of the November 3 Election. NOT EVEN CLOSE TO TRUE.

Every state and each of Pennsylvania’s 67 Counties has a formal vote tabulation process. Pennsylvania requires that the Friday after the Election a “Return Board” be sworn and seated to commence the formal and official vote count. In Allegheny County, the Return Board is comprised of Elections Division employees for the most part.
Does that mean that everything that we see and hear on Tuesday night, into Wednesday, is unofficial? YES!

Taking Allegheny County, PA for example, Tuesday begins a scanning and count of approximately 350,000 mail-in ballots, that are securely stored, in addition to a like number of in person votes on Election Day, with polls remaining open until 8:00 PM. While this is a monumental task and will take some time, it is likely that by end of day Wednesday these votes will be tabulated and posted on the Elections web page. BUT WAIT,THERE’S MORE!

Certain military ballots need not be returned for an additional week to be counted. Thousands of Provisional Ballots that will be cast on Election Day will be examined by the Return Board to see if they are counted and, if so, to what extent. And, at least for Tuesday’s Presidential Election, the PA Supreme Court has ruled that mail-in ballots received after the 8:00 PM close of polls, but postmarked on or before November 3, and received by November 6, at 5:00 PM shall be counted. That count, of course, cannot begin before Friday at 5:00.

You get the picture, I certainly hope. There is much to do after the whistle blows at 8:00 PM on Tuesday. So, as always, patience is a virtue.

Allan Opsitnick


Author: opsitnickslaw

Allan J. Opsitnick J.D. and B.A. Degrees, University of Pittsburgh

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