by Charlie Wolfson
Pennsylvania was shoved into the spotlight of the week-long, real-life drama of an election unlike any other in modern history. Counties worked around the clock for days to tabulate a record number of mail-in ballots, and the nation waited to learn the fate of the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes.
Cable news viewers across the world became intimately familiar with local geography, such as the voting tendencies of Philadelphia’s “collar counties” and Erie’s status as a presidential bellwether. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman caught national attention for saying that President Donald Trump could “sue a ham sandwich” and that every vote would be counted despite Trump’s protests.
Is this our new normal? Every four years, will the country watch as Pennsylvania spends five days, or more, counting mail-in ballots? Will the populace be subjected to a sea of disinformation while it slowly sifts through election returns?
Experts say it depends in large part on the state legislature and the post-pandemic behavior of voters — two things that aren’t very predictable.
President-elect Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes and received more votes nationwide than any presidential candidate in history. Election observers and experts say the nation’s elections system underwent a massive stress test and — despite challenges and unfounded conspiracy theories — passed.
“I think the commonwealth did a pretty good job of executing an election under incredibly trying circumstances,” said Chris Deluzio, policy director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security. He said between the pandemic, many counties using new voting machines for the first time, and the transition to mail-in voting, “it was a very difficult set of circumstances. And I think despite that, we saw an election that was executed pretty well.”
This hasn’t stopped prominent Republicans, including Trump, from making false claims and baseless allegations of fraud in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. PublicSource and many other outlets reported before the election that in-person, Election Day votes would be reported on Nov. 3 and mail-in ballots would be reported over a period of several days after that. Most of the suspense and shift in vote tallies during election week was foreseen. Here’s what can be predicted about future elections in Pennsylvania.
An application for a mail-in ballot at a satellite election office in Allegheny County. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)
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