The process of reviewing, opening, and counting mail-in and absentee ballots always begins on Election Day morning; it may not begin before that under the law.
Although mail-in and absentee ballots are opened and scanned during Election Day, the results of the scanned ballots may not be tallied until after the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Once the polls close the mail-in and absentee ballots may be tallied in real time as they are scanned and the scanners count the votes on those ballots. Votes cast at the polling places on Election Day are captured on the memory cards in the polling place scanners (as well as on the paper ballots that are scanned into the polling place scanners). Once a critical mass of ballots/memory cards have been counted, the Board of Elections reports *unofficial* results here, and will continue to update those results periodically as additional ballots and memory cards are counted.
As has always been the case, the Board does not have official results from the election for several days. This is because, even after all of the ballots cast on or before Election Day have been counted, a number of additional ballots will still need to be counted, including (i) ballots returned by overseas and uniformed military voters, which may be counted so long as they are received by the statutory deadline, which is several days after Election Day, (ii) mail-in and absentee ballots returned to the Board by mail and received by 5:00 pm on the Friday after Election Day, and (iii) provisional ballots cast on Election Day that are determined by the Board to be valid, which determination will not be made until several days after Election Day.
The Board is following all requirements of the Pennsylvania Election Code regarding ballot security.
Mail-in and absentee ballots returned by mail to the Board of Elections will be date stamped and logged in by the Board upon receipt and placed under lock and key in a secure room in a building guarded by various layers of security and surveillance until they are ready to be opened and counted starting on Election Day.
Mail-in and absentee ballots returned to an official Board of Elections ballot drop box are collected daily by two person teams of Board staff and delivered to the Board where they are placed under lock and key in a secure room in a building guarded by various layers of security and surveillance until they are ready to be opened and counted starting on Election Day. A written paper trail reflecting the collection and delivery of the ballots collected each day from each drop box is created to ensure that all ballots can be accounted for and tracked.
Mail-in and absentee ballots returned to an official Board of Elections Voter Service Center are collected daily by Board staff and placed under lock and key in a secure room in a building guarded by various layers of security and surveillance until they are ready to be opened and counted starting on Election Day. A written paper trail reflecting the collection and delivery of the ballots collected each day at each Voter Service Center is created to ensure that all ballots can be accounted for and tracked.
Many people have expressed concerns about potential election fraud, particularly regarding the new mail-in ballot voting option. Such concerns are not based in fact nor are they well-founded.
As noted above, mail-in ballots work the same way that absentee ballots work, and those have been used in Pennsylvania for decades without significant incidents.
Each mail-in and absentee ballot has a unique bar code. If someone were to try to copy a mail-in or absentee ballot and fill out multiple copies in an effort to vote multiple times, that would be revealed by the bar code. Only the first ballot scanned in with that bar code would be counted. The others would be rejected by the system. In addition, in order to vote multiple ballots the person would have to also have multiple security envelopes and return ballot envelopes. The return ballot envelopes also have unique bar codes that would prevent them from being copied.
A person is also not able to vote by mail and also in person as a way to vote twice. Each voter who has been sent a mail-in or absentee ballot is identified in the poll book that will be at their polling place on Election Day has having received a mail-in or absentee ballot. The poll book explicitly instructs the local election board workers that voter may only cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are not reviewed until after all mail-in and absentee ballots are scanned in. Where someone has voted by mail-in or absentee ballot, if that person also voted a provisional ballot the system will not permit the person’s provisional ballot to be counted.
For more information about the election process, read the Delaware County Board of Elections Election Process Overview.
One authorized representative observer of each candidate in the election and one representative from each political party shall be permitted to be in the room in which the provisional ballots are reviewed; provided, however, that if the number of observers is such that there is not sufficient space to accommodate all observers at one time in the designated observers area while permitting social distancing, then the observers for the two major parties and for the two major Presidential Campaigns shall be permitted to remain in the room at all times, while the other observers shall be permitted to be in the room on a rotating basis as space and health guidelines permit.
Download the Provisional Ballot Review Observer Rules document for more information.
Any party or candidate seeking to have an observer at the provisional ballot review must email ElectionBoardMembers@co.delaware.pa.us with the name of each observer they would like to appoint, the observer’s address, and—if the observer is the attorney for a party or candidate—the PA Bar number of the observer. Due to security restrictions, observer requests must be received by 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 5, 2020 in order to be approved prior to the start of the provisional ballot review process at 8 am on Saturday, November 7. Requests received after that deadline will be processed on a rolling basis any may not be processed prior to the start of the provisional ballot review.
Observers must be pre-approved in accordance with the process described above and pass a security and health screening in order to be admitted to the provisional ballot review. Each observer must sign the observer log in order to gain admission to the provisional ballot review.