With coronavirus concerns and protests, Pennsylvania voters experience an election like no other

KYW Staff
June 02, 2020 - 8:49 pm
Voters cast ballots in primary elections on June 2, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

UPDATED: 11:50 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  Polls have closed as Pennsylvania held a primary election amid protests, a pandemic, and new voting machines in some counties. As officials say things mostly went smoothly, it will be a while before the results of the races will be known. 

After weeks of county officials in Pennsylvania scrambling to meet the deadline to get voters’ mail-in ballots on the eve of the election, Gov. Tom Wolf Monday evening extended the deadline for six counties. Bucks County won an emergency petition late Tuesday that extends their deadline for mail-in ballots.  

Franklin and Marshall College poll director Dr. Terry Madonna said 1.8 million Pennsylvanians had cast mail-in ballots, and as of two days ago, 700,000 of them had not been turned in, something he finds to be concerning.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Madonna said.

Results

Joe Biden has won the Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump has won the Republican presidential primary in Pennsylvania.

A look at Election Day

Committee of Seventy CEO David Thornburg said he has two main concerns with how the election was conducted Tuesday.

The first was voter confusion, which was caused by new ways of doing things on Election Day as well as the consolidation of polls.

The second being the avalanche of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia and in the suburbs. Thornburg said the count will take longer, although he has no issue with that as long as the count is correct.  

He expects mail-in ballots to take hold, and in the fall, he estimates the number of mail-in ballots will be higher than other November elections. 

The Philadelphia City Commissioners shrunk the number of polling places from more than 800 to less than 200 in response to COVID-19, because fear of the virus greatly reduced the number of available poll workers, who tend to be in a high-risk group. 

They worried they still wouldn’t have enough to cover polling sites when violent outbreaks within protests introduced a new concern. 

But Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio said they were able to keep the sites staffed even amid protests. 

He was at the Fishtown Recreation Center as about 200 voters cast their ballots as protesters demonstrated a half a block away.

Combined with an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, Custodio expects turnout will greatly exceed the last uncontested presidential primary in 2012, when there was nothing to keep voters away.

In Montgomery County, over 105,000 mail-in or absentee ballots are in and the county still needs to scan in any ballots that came in last-minute through the mail or through the county’s drop boxes. Bucks County has similar numbers, with 100,000 to 120,000 mail-in ballots requests, which Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia said “a good majority of them were returned.”

Chester County has 71,000 scanned in, along with more that came in from their drop boxes that need to be processed before they can be counted, a process Chester County Commissioner Marian Moskowitz called tedious.

“You have to open them. They have to lay out in a certain way so they fit into the scanner properly. You have to verify there are no wrinkles, no bends and then you start scanning,” Moskowitz explained. 

Some of the key races include contested primaries on both sides of Bucks County’s congressional district, where incumbent Republican Brian Fitzpatrick is challenged by Andy Meehan. Embattled state Sen. Daylin Leach faces a primary challenge from Amanda Cappelletti.

Neither of those races is anywhere near being close to being called.

The final results won’t be in until all of the mail-in ballots are counted next week, and the counting of mail-in ballots will start Wednesday morning.

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KYW Newsradio's Jim Melwert and Pat Loeb contributed to this report.