Pa. Election 2020 Results: Philly closer to finishing count of mail ballots; at PHL, Trump campaign claims victory

Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt said Wednesday that it will take at least until Thursday morning for workers to wrap up the tally.

Election workers scan ballots at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Election workers scan ballots at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Updated: 5:48 p.m.


Philly moves closer to finishing its count of mail ballots

Nearly 24 hours after the polls closed in Philadelphia, city workers still have more than 100,000 mail ballots to count.

During a short news conference inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center late Wednesday afternoon, City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said the city had counted 233,583 mail ballots. The city received more than 350,000 ballots by Election Day.

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Despite the progress, Deeley would not say when the counting would wrap up. A total of 347,029 in-person ballots — 97% of precincts — are now reflected in the city’s results.

“I feel very comfortable in the progress that we’ve made so far, and I look forward to continuing that progress. But I don’t want to hold myself or us to a hard, fast deadline,” said Deeley.

Earlier Wednesday, City Commissioner Al Schmidt said it would take at least until Thursday to have all of the city’s mail ballots counted.

City workers have been counting mail ballots around the clock since polls opened at 7 a.m.  Tuesday. Under state law, counties across Pennsylvania could not start opening and scanning ballots until then.

Thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, Philadelphia also must count an unknown number of mail ballots that come in between 8 p.m. Nov. 3 and 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6. Those ballots must be counted even if they are not clearly postmarked — as long as there’s no evidence the ballot was mailed after 8 p.m. on Election Day.

At the commissioners’ morning news conference, Schmidt was unapologetic about the pace of the results.

“If you’re gonna get it right, and you’re gonna prevent problems which jeopardize voters’ votes, it’s more important to do it right than meet artificial deadlines,” he said. “We’re pushing out the results as quickly as we can. We’re not holding back.”

City Commissioner Lisa Deeley updates members of the media at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
City Commissioner Lisa Deeley updates members of the media at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Schmidt’s prediction comes as the national spotlight shines ever brighter on battleground Pennsylvania, one of only a few states that have yet to be called for President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.

Turnout statistics and other numbers are available at their website.

Trump campaign claims victory in Pa.

At a press conference at the Philadelphia airport Wednesday afternoon, the Trump campaign claimed victory in Pennsylvania, even though thousands of ballots remain to be counted, including in counties that are likely to favor Joe Biden.

“Trump has definitely won Pennsylvania,” Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani told the crowd. “Do you think we are stupid?”

Despite the claim that the president had clinched the state, the campaign insisted that the Philadelphia city commissioners had unfairly obstructed their poll watchers from observing the ballot count. Former Florida Attorney General and Trump legal adviser Pam Bondi said that a deputy commissioner refused to let a poll watcher come within 30 feet of where votes were being counted, and that the commissioner was wearing a very large badge, signifying intimidation.

“With a police barricade and a man with a huge badge, he said the reason was they can’t interfere with the process and then something about COVID,” said Bondi, who added there was video of the incident that the campaign would release.

The press conference had been scheduled for earlier in the afternoon outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City, where votes are being tallied, but the campaign relocated it to the airport at the last minute, seemingly after protesters showed up.

Avid viewers watch ballot count

It’s the “Yule Log” for our post-election advent.

Thousands of people have been watching the live-stream video on YouTube of that hand-count of the city’s mail-in ballots at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The video is a single still-camera shot, with no sound, of people wearing yellow reflective vests seated at long folding tables, doing the grunt work of democracy.

On any other day, this would be extremely boring viewing. But after a messy election season, and in the midst of extreme tension to determine the winner of the White House, people are finding a moment of respite watching the slow, methodical counting process. On Wednesday morning, viewership to the YouTube stream vacillated between 6,000 and 10,000 people.

Mitch Fraas described it as “mesmerizing.”

“Not that it reveals anything much but is kind of calming and reassuring,” Fraas wrote on Twitter.

Seventh graders at Carver High School for Engineering and Science spent part of their class time watching the stream.

And Kate Tornone is having her 5-year-old watch. “I think it makes this confusing event accessible and concrete for him,” she wrote on Twitter.

Many people used the word “soothing” to describe how it feels to watch mundane ballot-counting.

“I need to focus my energy on something,” wrote Mallie Salerno (@malliesalerno). “It’s also really soothing to watch?”

“It’s like watching bees pollinate,” wrote Tu Huynh (@kaleotu).

For some, it was a welcome return of Slow TV, a television genre out of Norway featuring marathon-length programming of single-shot events, such as long train trips and views from the bow of cruise liners. It was available on Netflix until August 2019, when SlowTV was scrubbed from the online television service.

As Kevin Lawrence (@chappuy1750) of Philadelphia Tweeted, “I like slow TV.”

State officials preach patience, promise updates

Pennsylvania’s expectedly slow vote count continued Wednesday, with about half of mail-in ballots still waiting to be tallied as of late morning.

State officials said the process was going as anticipated. And they reported no problems at the polls Tuesday

“It was incredibly smooth,” said Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. “That’s a huge credit to all the election workers.”

The question now is when the state will finish tallying in-person and mail-in votes.

According to a New York Times analysis of the votes already recorded, it’s expected the race for Pennsylvania will be tight.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (right) and Gov. Tom Wolf (left) answer questions from the press in Harrisburg.
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (right) and Gov. Tom Wolf (left) answer questions from the press in Harrisburg. (Office of Gov. Tom Wolf)

The Associated Press showed Trump with roughly a 9-point margin as of Wednesday at 11 a.m., but that accounted for just 64% of the estimated vote. Of the vote remaining, much is expected to have been done by mail — and, thus, heavily Democratic.

Boockvar said the state will release a “lot of updates” to its numbers in the next few hours. She also acknowledged that some counties were uploading voter tallies to their own websites before sending those data files to the state — accounting for some discrepancies between local- and state-level reporting

Gov. Tom Wolf said the relatively slow pace of the process was proof that Pennsylvania is taking the time to get its tally right.

“We may not know the results today, but the most important thing is that we have accurate results,” Wolf said.

“Make no mistake,” Wolf added. “Our democracy is being tested in this election.”

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