As anticipated, the vote-counting in the presidential election continued Wednesday, as elections officials in key battleground states — including Pennsylvania — vowed that every vote legitimately cast would be counted. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, national news organizations had made state projections that put former Vice President Joe Biden closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, but those projections did not include Pennsylvania.
This was expected.
According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 65 million Americans — including more than 2.5 million Pennsylvanians — voted by mail in this year’s presidential election. And mail-in ballots take time to verify and count. That’s what was happening Tuesday night into Wednesday, and Wednesday night into today. And still is likely to continue for days.
While the volume of mail-in votes is unusual this year, it’s always been the case that it takes states days to count ballots. The deadline for certifying the results in Pennsylvania is Nov. 23 — though state officials expect most of the commonwealth’s votes to be counted by Friday.
Pennsylvania’s top elections official, Kathy Boockvar — who has been a model of calm and professionalism amid the election-related frenzy — said Wednesday morning that counties still were processing more than a million mail ballots.
“The delay that we’re seeing is a sign that the system is working. This is a new system,” Gov. Tom Wolf added, according to the nonpartisan newsroom Spotlight PA. “And there are millions of mail-in ballots that are being counted. That takes longer than the way we used to do it with the in-person voting. ... The most important thing is that we have accurate results.”
Other states also are taking some time to carefully process and count votes. (Nevada officials, for instance, said Wednesday that they wouldn’t be updating election results until this morning.)
And news organizations have exercised caution in projecting the presidential winners in each state.
The Associated Press said in an explanatory story earlier this week that in “closely contested races, there is no substitute for a detailed analysis of the vote count.”
AP race callers and analysts consider how many ballots were cast “in person on Election Day, or in advance by mail or in person. They also pay close attention to how many have been counted so far, and how many are left. Another important factor: The voting history of areas where votes are still being counted.”
“All of it is aimed at determining the answer to a single question: Can the trailing candidates catch up with the leader? Only when the answer is an unquestionable ‘no’ is the race ready to be called.”
Because the stakes are so high in a presidential race, news organizations tend to be fairly reluctant to call a race before they have reached a level of certainty. No one wants to be proven wrong. In journalism, inaccurate reporting has a cost, and that’s a loss of credibility. And that’s excruciating to most professional journalists.
As believers in the sanctity of U.S. democracy, we were saddened by President Donald Trump’s assertion in the early morning hours of Wednesday that the ongoing count was a “fraud on the American public” and an “embarrassment to our country.”
“We were getting ready to win this election,” he said. “Frankly, we did win this election. ... We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list, OK? ... To me, this is a very sad moment, and we will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”
At that point, the final results in key battleground states, including ours, weren’t yet known. The president’s claims could be chalked up to wishful thinking if they weren’t so irresponsible.
Ballots aren’t nefariously produced by sinister fraudsters at 4 a.m. The ballots being counted at that hour — and at every hour — were legitimately cast and have been waiting to be counted.
Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told The Washington Post that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous,” “uncalled for” and “a terrible mistake.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “claiming you win the election is different from finishing the counting.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — an informal Trump adviser — said this on ABC News: “There’s just no basis to make that argument. ... There just isn’t.”
And Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said this on Fox News: “We as a country accept election results. We believe in counting all the votes.”
We are grateful for those Republican voices of reason.
Nevertheless, the Trump campaign called Wednesday for the counting in Michigan and Pennsylvania to be halted until it was given “meaningful” access to vote-counting locations and allowed to review ballots that already have been opened and processed, the AP reported.
And the president further groused on Twitter that “they” are “working hard to make (our) 500,000 vote advantage in Pennsylvania disappear — ASAP. Likewise, Michigan and others!”
Twitter rightfully slapped a warning on that tweet that stated: “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
President Trump wants Americans to think the election is being stolen from him, but it is not. Votes are being counted. And that’s what should be happening.
And if more ballots are found to be languishing in Postal Service sorting facilities in central Pennsylvania and elsewhere — as one federal judge ordered Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to find out — those votes should be verified and counted, too.
We know many of you voted for Trump, both in 2016 and this year. We hope your deep patriotism and belief in the U.S. system of democracy prevails over the president’s efforts to convince you that the vote count is not legitimate. The integrity of our democratic process is more important than one man’s legacy.
The election results that have been reported already show that this nation remains utterly divided. But we hope that it’s not irreparably broken.
Here is some good news: Election Day unfolded mostly without the voter intimidation and violence that was feared.
Though Election Day looked somewhat different because of the precautions necessarily taken to help limit the spread of COVID-19, polling places in Lancaster County still operated efficiently. Lancaster County residents who had waited to cast their votes until Election Day were able to do so, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of poll workers and county officials. Their efforts deserve our deep gratitude.
Just as voters deserve to have their legitimately cast ballots counted. However long it takes.