by Tim Jimenez, Jim Melwert, and Paul Kurtz
It is still too early to call a winner in the presidential race in Pennsylvania, because mail-in ballots are still being counted.
According to the state’s website, about 92,000 ballots still need to be counted in Philadelphia, as of Thursday afternoon. Then, 46,000 in Bucks, 39,000 in Lehigh, and 36,000 in Allegheny counties.
President Donald Trump currently leads Joe Biden by 108,000 votes in Pennsylvania. About 340,000 mail-in ballots still need to be counted statewide.
It took Montgomery County about 41 hours to finish counting all votes that were cast by 8 p.m. on Election Day, including about 250,000 mail-in ballots.
County Commissioner and Board of Elections Chair Ken Lawrence said, in the June primary election, it took them 17 days to count 126,000 ballots.
“So we made a plan," he said. "We invested $1.7 million in equipment for that, upped the staffing, and just wanted to make sure we were done as quickly and accurately and safely as possible.”
The county is still collecting ballots that were mailed by Election Day until 5 p.m. Friday. Those ballots are the subject of a legal challenge, so they’re being kept separate. Lawrence said they received 153 more on Wednesday.
He also noted the deadline for overseas and military ballots isn’t until Tuesday, Nov. 10. But with votes counted so far, Montgomery County has backed Joe Biden by about a 3-2 margin — 313,543 for Biden to 182,907 for Trump.
Chester County wrapped up its counting process of all in-person votes, as well as all the mail-in ballots they received before 8 p.m. on election night. The county website reports 309,000 votes were cast — 81% of registered voters in the county. About 147,000 of those ballots were mail-in, while 162,000 were cast in person.
Chester County voters backed Biden over Trump by a 17-point margin: 57% to 40%, or 177,408 to 126,446 votes.
The Delaware County Bureau of Elections has processed approximately 104,000 mail-in ballots, as of Wednesday afternoon, with another 15,000 to go. More than 200 mail-in ballots were received Wednesday.
The county said it is trying to complete the mail-in count of ballots received on or before Election Day by the end of Thursday.
Meanwhile, Biden has taken a lead in Bucks County, and he appears to be gaining momentum as the counting continues.
As of noon Thursday, Biden has a little over 50% of the vote, compared to Trump’s 48.5%.
Trump held a 23,000-vote lead the morning after the election, but it quickly dwindled as a mountain of mail-in ballots were counted.
The race has tightened significantly since the county began processing those ballots, as officials expected. Around 75% of mail-in ballots that have been counted so far have gone to Biden. Bucks election officials still need to tabulate a remaining 25,000 mail-in ballots.
Mail-in ballots have generally favored Biden across the map, too. Biden said he's confident he'll win the state.
Sharing the stage on Wednesday afternoon with running mate Sen. Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Biden said they will have the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency — and an unprecedented popular vote, too.
But it's the electoral votes that decide the election, and right now the race remains too close to call in several states. All ballots will be counted to determine to whom Pennsylvania's critical 20 electoral votes will go.
Republican state Rep. Todd Stephens hangs on to his seat, fending off a challenge from North Penn School Board member Jonathan Kassa. Taking a look at the state Legislature in the suburbs, House Republicans picked up a seat in Bucks County, where Shelby Labs beat incumbent Democrat Wendy Ullman.
But as the count continues in Chester and Delaware counties for local races, Republican state Sen. Tom Killion is trailing Democratic challenger John Kane by about 2000 votes.
In another big county race, incumbent Bucks County Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick appears to have won his race against Christina Finello. Fitzpatrick is holding a 20-point lead with around 75% of the vote tabulated.
“We certainly got people who voted Republican on mail-in ballots, but predominantly in the spring, we had Republicans show up in person, Democrats by mail,” noted Bucks County Commissioner Robert Harvie. “So the same thing is happening now. It’s really not too much of a surprise.”
Harvie said vote counters are working feverishly to complete their counts.
“We think we’ll have the bulk of it done (Thursday),” he added. “We’ll still have some ballots to go through so we’re not officially finished, but we think we’ll have the bulk of it done by (Thursday).”