The Lead

Pa.’s new election dashboard will show progress of mail-in ballot count alongside early returns

By: - October 30, 2020 4:46 pm

A preview of Pennsylvania’s new election results dashboard, showing how uncounted mail ballots will be displayed alongside unofficial election results. Source: Department of State Zoom call.

Pennsylvanians who plan to spend Tuesday night glued to the news will find some changes to the state’s website for reporting preliminary election results. 

The Department of State on Friday unveiled a new election results dashboard designed to provide voters with up-to-date data on how many mail ballots still need to be counted.

More than 3 million Pennsylvanians have been approved to vote by mail this year. And while results from in-person voting will be available soon after polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, it could take days for counties to process the mountain of mail-in ballots.

Map: How Pa. counties plan to count 3.1 million mail-in ballots

The website the Department of State plans to unveil at 8 p.m. on Tuesday will not replace its election results page, which shows how many votes have been counted for each candidate. All results are considered unofficial until Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar certifies them weeks after the election.

But state officials say it will contextualize the state of each race by showing how many ballots have yet to be counted. 

It will also provide detailed vote breakdowns for individual races, showing how many votes a candidate received from in-person voting, mail-in voting or provisional ballots. 

“It’s going to give a lot of extra detail that we don’t necessarily have on our main election returns site … about the overall state of the counting process,” Michael Moser, director of the Bureau of Election Security and Technology, told reporters Friday.

The website will be updated with the latest results every 45 minutes on Election night, and at a “regular cadence” in the days after the election as counties continue to process mail in ballots. 

State officials have urged voters to be patient waiting for election results this year. But election experts have warned that a partisan split in mail voting could distort results in tight races, particularly in the presidential election.

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s approved mail voters this year are registered Democrats. As election forecasters at FiveThirtyEight explained this week, that could lead to a “blue shift” in election results: in-person voting results that will be quickly available on election night will likely lean Republican, while those that trickle in from mail ballots in the days after the election will reveal more votes for Democrats.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.