Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Pauses Ballot Counting

November 4, 2020 Updated: November 4, 2020

Election officials in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County announced early Wednesday they have suspended vote counting and that they expect to resume tabulating votes at around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, as the race for the White House narrows to several key battleground states.

Local news outlets WPXI and WESA reported the announcement by officials in the county, which includes Pittsburgh.

“@Allegheny_Co announces it’s suspending counting for the evening. Crews remain to process and flatten the remaining ballots which should take about an hour. The scanning will resume around 10 am. The county expects it will go quickly from there,” wrote WPXI reporter Aaron Martin, in a tweet.

“Allegheny County is pausing the count and reconvening at 10 am to continue,” wrote WESA reporter Lucy Perkins, in a tweet.

Hours earlier, Allegheny County Elections Director David Voye said ballot processing was taking longer than expected, partly because machines that tabulate votes were jamming.

A voter arrives to drop off his ballot
A voter arrives to drop off his ballot during early voting in Allentown, Pa., on Oct. 29, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Pennsylvania is one of four key battleground states—along with Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin—which began Wednesday with tens of thousands of absentee ballots uncounted.

Allegheny County has a population of 1.2 million people. It is the state’s second-most populous county.

Allegheny County went for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Some Pennsylvania counties weren’t poised to begin counting mail-in votes until later Wednesday, including Beaver County, Montour County, Cumberland, Franklin, Greene, Juniata, and Mercer County, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Some county officials cited staffing shortages, space constraints, and the demands of dealing with in-person votes on Election Day as reasons why they wouldn’t get around to tabulating absentee and mail-in votes until the following day.

Thad Hall, the elections director in Mercer County, was cited by the outlet as saying his staff will begin counting absentee votes on Wednesday, citing other priorities on Election Day.

“I have to be in a position to spend my day addressing the needs of my Election Day voters and then once we are done with that, then we’ll turn to addressing the mail-in ballots,” he said.

Holly Brandon, the elections director in Montour County, said staff and space limitations drove the decision not to tabulate mail-in votes until Wednesday and blamed the state legislature for the delay, telling the Post-Gazette that by refusing to allow pre-canvassing ahead of Election Day, they “created this monster.”

Pennsylvania’s top elections official Kathy Boockvar said last week she would push counties to tabulate votes quickly but that the decision on processing votes would ultimately be up to them.

Trump Wins Iowa, Biden Takes Minnesota
(L) Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at a get-out-the-vote drive-in rally at Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 02, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(R) President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Nov. 3, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)

“The outcome of Tuesday’s election could well depend on Pennsylvania,” Boockvar said, according to the Post-Gazette. “It is vitally important that the more than 3 million ballots cast by mail here be counted as soon as possible. The country will be looking to Pennsylvania for accurate and timely results.”

In an Election Day tweet, she wrote: “Every eligible vote, every voice, every participant in this great democracy must be heard, must be enfranchised, must be counted accurately and securely.”

Attention has focused on Pennsylvania, which has emerged as a key battleground state in a White House race still too close to call. Officials have warned repeatedly that results in the closely watched state might be delayed because of the surge of mail-in ballots this year.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in an early Wednesday statement that the state still has over 1 million mail ballots left to count.

“I promised Pennsylvanians that we would count every vote and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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