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Biden Leads in Centre County as Pennsylvania Remains Undecided

by on November 04, 2020 5:25 PM

Democrat Joe Biden appeared to carry the presidential race in Centre County, but the fate of Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes was still uncertain as of Wednesday evening.

Through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Biden had 38,978 votes to President Donald Trump's 35,849 in Centre County, a 51% to 47% margin. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen had 1,040 votes.

A total of 76,540 ballots had been tallied by the county's elections office, including nearly 32,000 mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania's first general election with no-excuse-required mail-in voting.

More than 275 trained workers began processing the mail-in ballots at 7 a.m. Tuesday in President's Hall of the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, delivering the first tranche of 28,510 ballots at 8 p.m. Processing of a second tranche of about 3,340 mail ballots paused at 2 a.m. and resumed at 9 a.m., with completion by noon.

Still to be counted are provisional ballots and military and overseas absentee ballots, which can arrive up to a week after Election Day. Hundreds of ballots flagged during pre-canvassing also must be reviewed by the Board of Elections and hand counted if needed. 

The Board of Elections began reviewing those ballots on Wednesday.

Unofficial results must be delivered to the Department of State by Nov. 10 and county election results must be certified by Nov. 23.

For now, mail-in ballots that are postmarked Nov. 3 and arrive by Friday are to be counted as well, the state officials urged voters to hand-deliver those ballots by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. 

The Trump campaign said it was seeking to intervene in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court brought by the Pennsylvania GOP challenging the inclusion of ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but received in the days after. Mail-in ballots currently being counted across Pennsylvania, however, are those that were received by Election Day

It was one of two legal actions the campaign said it was taking as counties continued tallying ballots throughout the day on Wednesday. Trump also is asking the state Supreme Court to stop the count saying Republican poll observers need to be granted better access to ballot processing and counting. 

A similar suit was filed in Michigan, which was called for Biden on Wednesday afternoon. The campaign also said it would demand a recount in Wisconsin, another state called for Biden on Wednesday.

"This is the most important election of our lifetime, and President Trump made clear our path forward last night: ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation," Justin Clark, Trump 2020 deputy campaign manager, said in a statement.

Trump falsely claimed early Wednesday morning that the continued counting of ballots cast on or before Election Day was a "fraud," and declaring he had won the election as his early leads in several swing states, including Pennsylvania, began to slip. At the time nearly 2 million votes, including a large number of mail ballots, were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, many in heavily Democratic Philadelphia.

There have been no reports of fraud related to Pennsylvania's ballot counting.

“Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and make sure that everyone has their voice heard," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement on Wednesday. "Pennsylvania is going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters and continue to administer a free and fair election. Our election officials at the state and local level should be free to do their jobs without intimidation or attacks. These attempts to subvert the democratic process are disgraceful. 

Counting of votes continues beyond Election Day in every presidential election, but the record number of mail-in ballots this year made for slower results. Pennsylvania officials and election experts have warned for months that projected final totals would not be available on election night because the Republican-led General Assembly did not pass legislation to allow the counting of mail-in ballots to begin before Election Day.

State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, put the blame on Wolf for not supporting a House bill that would have allowed early counting, but would have removed mail-in ballot drop boxes and allowed out-of-county poll workers, both of which were opposed by Democrats.

Benninghoff said on Wednesday Wolf wanted more than the three days Republicans proposed for pre-canvassing and called for ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by Friday to be counted.

Republicans "put a good-faith effort forward," Benninghoff said. Wolf has said he was willing to negotiate but it was Republicans who walked away from a deal.

Trump was leading Biden in Pennsylvania by about 259,000 votes with 88% reporting as of Wednesday evening.

The Associated Press has called 264 Electoral College votes for Biden, six short of the 270 needed to win. That includes Arizona, which some news organizations have not yet put in the Biden column. If Biden does win Arizona along with Nevada, where he was leading on Wednesday evening, he would not need Pennsylvania to win the presidency. 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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