Why won’t we have results right away on election night

On November 8, millions of Pennsylvanians will head to the polls to cast their ballots in the midterm elections. Additionally, the more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians who applied to vote by mail or absentee ballots must return their ballots to their county board of elections by 8:00 p.m. tonight.

The question I get asked time and time again is when will we get the results? This is a fair question. We will all be excited to hear the results of such an important election as voters choose our next governor and lieutenant governor, one of our US senators, all members of the US House of Representatives, half of our state senators, and all of our state representatives.

But the answer may not be what people want to hear. While we’d all love to go to bed on November 8th knowing who won each race, it will likely take a few days to get the full unofficial results.

Accurate counting is paramount and there is no rush. County election officials must be given a reasonable amount of time to do their job and comply with the law.

This short interval will not be because something nefarious is happening; rather, it simply means that the thorough, deliberate process and timelines prescribed by the Pennsylvania Election Code work to achieve a careful count of every eligible vote.

It takes time to count the more than 1.3 million mailed ballots. Election law does not allow counties to begin pre-gathering these ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. That means election officials can’t get the ballots out of the envelopes and ready to scan before that time, on a day when those same officials are also manning more than 9,000 polling places across the state.

And then counties may not even begin recording and publishing mail-in ballot results until the polls close at 8 p.m.

Even after the vote is registered and published, the district election commissions continue to work on the election. These councils must meet no later than 9 a.m. on November 11 and continue canvassing and counting until November 16.

Among other things, these commissions look at advance ballots — when it’s unclear whether a voter is at the right polling place, or when a voter who has applied to vote by mail decides to vote in person but doesn’t have their vote-by-mail ballot.

The canvass also includes overseas military and civilian ballot counts, which counties must take by Nov. 15.

Finally, absentee voters whose identification could not be verified at the time of application must submit proof of identification to their election office by November 14. In tight races, every vote must be counted before the result is known.

It is important to note that at each stage of the process—in-person voting at the precinct, advance and mail-in ballot canvassing, and advance ballot designation—representatives chosen by each candidate and political party can be present and observe.

Voters, candidates and the media need to be patient during the vote counting process. And they should be smart consumers of election information. Dishonest sources seeking to sow discord and doubt sometimes use the normal, expected processing time of election results to spread misinformation and misinformation about the integrity of the election.

Do not share election information unless you know it is from a reliable and trustworthy source, such as your county election office website and the state’s voter information website,

The security of our electoral system has many safeguards. And we can trust in the integrity and professionalism of the local election officials who conduct the counting. Please vote on November 8 if you haven’t already voted by mail. Let your voice be heard. Our democracy works best when we all participate.

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