‘We plan to count until the count is done’: How Philly and its suburbs will tally votes on Election Day

An election worker holds a mail ballot.

File photo: Workers tally mail ballots inside the Pa. Convention Center on Election Day 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Ask us: As Election Day draws near, what questions do you have?

Don’t get it twisted. Mail voting is still very popular in the Keystone State. However, fewer Pennsylvanians requested mail ballots this year in comparison to 2020.

With that said, results may not be known on election night for many local and statewide races. Mail voting has complicated the voting process. This is because Pennsylvania does not allow counties to process and sort through ballots prior to Election Day.

But that doesn’t mean election officials will be sitting on their hands.

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“We plan to count until the count is done,” said Jim O’Malley, spokesperson for Bucks County. 

There are new rules this time around that are supposed to bring more uniformity and transparency to the ballot-counting process.

Pennsylvania lawmakers established a $45 million grant program this summer. In order to be eligible for a share of funding, counties are required to continually count ballots without stopping and post mail ballot progress by midnight following the polls closing.

“The gist of it is that if you take some grant money from the state, you agree to count without interruption,” O’Malley said.

A vast majority of Pennsylvania counties are choosing to participate in the program — including the city of Philadelphia as well as Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

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This means election staff for each of the counties will begin pre-canvassing mail ballots starting at 7 a.m. on Election Day. 

WHYY News reached out to Philadelphia and the surrounding counties to see just how many mail ballots they are expecting to receive. Here is approximately how many mail ballot applications each jurisdiction received:

  • Philadelphia: 165,000
  • Bucks County: 98,000
  • Chester County: 79,000
  • Delaware County: 65,000
  • Montgomery County: 135,000

So far, here is approximately how many mail ballots have been returned to each county as of Friday morning:

  • Philadelphia: 104,000
  • Bucks County: 70,000
  • Chester County: 49,000
  • Delaware County: 45,000
  • Montgomery County: 96,000

Now, when might each county finish tallying all of the votes?

Election night is out of the question, but O’Malley said that Bucks County should wrap up by Wednesday or Thursday. Rebecca Brain, a spokesperson for Chester County, said that they are expecting to have everything tallied by late Thursday afternoon.

Kelly Cofrancisco, a spokesperson for Montgomery County, said that the county estimates about 90% of the ballots will be counted on election night, while the rest will likely be counted through Wednesday morning.

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