How the Vote-Counting Process Works in Pennsylvania

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PENNSYLVANIA — Pennsylvania voters will head to the polls on November 8th to cast their ballots in the general election. Many are wondering what happens after they cast their vote and how the vote-counting process works. In this article, we will outline the process and explain why it takes a few days for unofficial results to be released.

“We understand that voters, candidates and the media want election results as soon as possible. But counting all the eligible votes and reporting the results take time, and counties are rightfully focused on accuracy over speed,” said Leigh M. Chapman, Acting Secretary of State.

The vote-counting process in Pennsylvania begins on Election Day, when mail ballots are removed from their envelopes and prepared for scanning. Under Pennsylvania law, counties cannot begin this pre-canvassing of mail ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. County election officials and the Wolf Administration support earlier pre-canvassing, but that would require legislative approval.

Once the ballots are pre-canvassed, they are scanned and counted. The process of scanning and counting all the ballots can take a few days. In addition, Pennsylvania law requires a three-day period for overseas and military voters to submit their ballots. Therefore, unofficial results will not be available until a few days after the election.

“I want to emphasize that, throughout voting and pre-canvassing, people serving in specific roles observe the integrity of the process,” Chapman said. “Specifically, poll watchers can be present during in-person voting, and authorized representatives who have been chosen by candidates and political parties can be present during the pre-canvassing and canvassing of mail-in and absentee ballots.”

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In Pennsylvania, the deadline to register to vote or update a voter’s registration for the Nov. 8 election, and the deadline to apply for a mail ballot is Nov. 1. For more information about the Nov. 8 general election, visit You can find your polling place, check your registration status, and find information about absentee ballots and early voting. You can also learn about ID requirements, how to register if you’ve moved, and what to do if you encounter problems when voting. Get ready to make your voice heard on Election Day!

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