Nov 4, 2020
Pennsylvania Officials Press Conference on Election Vote Count Transcript November 4
Pennsylvania officials held a press conference on November 4 to provide updates on ongoing vote counts. PA Sec. of State Kathy Boockvar said that almost 50% of mail-in ballots have been counted. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Governor Tom Wolf: (02:12)
Morning, everybody. It’s good to have you back. Harrisburg. As you all know, yesterday was election day and election officials are still at work counting the votes. In fact, a lot of the county election officials worked late into the night and we still have work to do. I want to start by saying thank you to all the staff, the volunteers who work so hard to count those votes and are still working hard to count them. The promise of democracy is that every vote counts, and that has been the promise of democracy since 1787, and it’s still the promise of democracy. And I intend here in Pennsylvania to make sure we keep that promise.
Governor Tom Wolf: (03:00)
As I said, counties continue to report results. Again, these results are coming in more slowly than they have in the past. So we have to be patient, but confident that these votes are going to be counted. They’re going to be counted accurately and they will be counted fully. The delay that we’re seeing is a sign that the system is working. This is a new system. Went into effect with Act 77 last year. And there are 3 millions of mail-in ballots that are being counted. And that takes longer than the way we used to do it with the standard in-person voting.
Governor Tom Wolf: (03:40)
So we may not know the results even today, but the most important thing is that we have accurate results. Again, even if that takes a little longer than we’re used to. Make no mistake, our democracy is being tested in this election. This is a stress test of the ideals upon which this country was founded. And the basic rule of one person, one vote, that still carries, and it has to carry here.
Governor Tom Wolf: (04:08)
Our democracy has withstood challenges before and for over 200 years we have upheld and strengthened our commitment to basic fairness and due process. And I have full faith that we will similarly meet this moment. And I will do everything within my power to ensure that the results are fair and that every vote is counted. Pennsylvania will have a fair election and that election will be free of outside influences. I will vigorously, and we all will vigorously defend against any attempt to attack that vote in Pennsylvania and every Pennsylvanian, every Pennsylvanian can have confidence in the outcome of this election due to the diligence of the county election officials and the hard work of Secretary Boockvar and her folks at the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Governor Tom Wolf: (05:01)
Thank you again to all Pennsylvanians who voted. Rest assured your vote will be counted, if it hasn’t already been counted. Your vote will make a difference in this election. This is the way we elect our officials. This is the way we hire the people who are public servants. It’s a promise that we give to all Pennsylvanians, all Americans, that their vote counts. And I intend to keep that promise here in Pennsylvania. Now I’m proud to turn this over to Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar.
Kathy Boockvar: (05:39)
Good morning. So I want to echo some of what Governor Wolf said about, once again, thanking all the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of election workers that were and are still involved in the process of enabling this great democracy in Pennsylvania and across the nation. The work they have done and continue to do is just tremendous. I still, we’ve been talking, Department of State folks we’re at our operations center, I don’t know, 4:00, 4:30 in the morning. Went to take a shower and we’re back within a couple of hours of that.
Kathy Boockvar: (06:27)
So I’ve been working around the clock as are many of the counties. And we’ve been talking about yesterday, again, and how incredibly smooth, it’s one of the smoothest, least issues presidential elections than I’ve seen in any time that I could possibly remember. And I’ve been in around elections for a long time as a voting rights lawyer and a poll worker. This was incredibly smooth, and that’s a huge credit to all the election workers, both at the state level and at the local level, as well as our state partners like PIMA and Office of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security, who made sure that all those things that people were worried about, whether it was voter intimidation or issues at the polls, really could not have gone more smoothly in the middle of a global pandemic with all the voting reform changes that we saw from Act 77 and Act 12. That’s huge kudos to everybody involved.
Kathy Boockvar: (07:29)
Also, we are exactly where we said we would be. We said it was going to take some time to count the mail ballots. And we are, we are approaching 50% of the mail ballots counted, which is great. As you know you can go to our election night returns website and the supplemental dashboard to get the greater details on that. But there are still millions of ballots left to be counted. The counties are working incredibly hard. You’re going to see a lot of updates in the next couple of hours and throughout the day. There were a number of counties that made some major additions in the wee hours in the morning. So if you checked kind of early on this morning, you may want to check again because there’s already been more ballots accounted for on our dashboard.
Kathy Boockvar: (08:19)
Again, this is a process. We’ve got somewhere, I don’t know what the totals are going to end up at, but somewhere between 2.5 and 3 million ballots. And as I’ve said many times, we had 260,000 ballots cast by mail in 2016. We will be at 10 times the number of mail ballots. And the counties are already approaching 50% done. I urge everybody to remain patient. As Governor Wolf said, we are going to accurately count every single ballot. The vote count, as I’ve said many times, is never done on the day of election night. And the counties are doing this accurately and then accurately as quickly as they possibly can.
Kathy Boockvar: (09:09)
And again, I’ll also just remind everyone, military and overseas ballots are not due until a week after election day. So next Tuesday is the deadline for military and overseas voters to cast their ballots. And we want to make sure that not only every civilian absentee and mail-in valid voter is counted, but also that every man and woman who are serving our country, that their votes are counted. Thank you. And we are happy to take questions. Should I stay?
Governor Tom Wolf: (09:40)
I’m sure you want to talk to Kathy. Any questions? Dennis?
Tell us where we stand right now and what you know of challenges, legal challenges from the Trump administration and how are you preparing to deal with those?
Kathy Boockvar: (09:59)
Basically what you know that’s been public reported, that’s really all we have at this point. And I can’t talk about active litigation, unfortunately. But as things are filed, of course those will be publicly accessible.
Do you have attorneys that are going to handle that or are you bringing in somebody from the outside? And who would that be?
Kathy Boockvar: (10:17)
We have a mix. I mean, what we’ve been doing all along with all the litigation that’s been flying this year is we have a mix of in-house and outside counsel. Plus the attorney general is also representing us in a number of these things. There’s been a great team. I have to say the attorneys, I’m just going to give a shout out to the legal team in the Department of State who have been really put to work this year, and they are amazing. So Tim and Kat and team, thank you. But we also have tremendous teams of outside counsel who have been involved in all of this. And as the Governor said, we will make sure that every vote is counted. Every eligible voter has the right to cast their vote.
Speaker 4: (11:02)
How many counties are handling the ballots that coming in Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday? How are they handling that? Is each county setting them aside? How is each county doing them?
Kathy Boockvar: (11:11)
You can go online to see our guidance. And then last night we also gave sort of more technical guidance to the counties, which we can forward to you. It basically, it lays out the process. You’re talking about the late arriving ballots? So everything’s going to be segregated. I’m not sure if you were here yesterday, but all those ballots will be segregated, but they will be counted. And the counties have been given detailed instructions, which again, you could find in those guidances to walk them through how to segregate those races, those ballots. Sorry.
Speaker 5: (11:43)
Can you talk about the order in which those things will be counted? I mean, is that a county by county decision? Can we expect to see those numbers being already reflected or is something that would get to later in the process?
Kathy Boockvar: (11:56)
Basically it’s going to depend. There’s some counties that are already done counting their mail-in ballots received before APM. So those are going to start sooner, but they won’t be reflected on the website. They won’t be like intermingled in the website as you see it now, they will be segregated. But it is going to vary from county to county when they start, because they’re working on the other ones first.
Speaker 5: (12:16)
Once they are counted, will it be reflected on the website though? I’m unclear on that.
Kathy Boockvar: (12:19)
Well, I think, stay tuned on that. Yes.
Speaker 6: (12:23)
So on those segregated ballots there were 500,000 ballots issued that hadn’t been cast as of yesterday. Is there a-
Kathy Boockvar: (12:31)
Sorry, can you repeat the question?
Speaker 6: (12:31)
There were 500,000 mail ballots issued that hadn’t been cast as of yesterday. Is there a way for the state to determine how many of those 500,000 people chose to vote in person instead? Or do we need to operate under the assumption that all 500,000 could come in before Friday?
Kathy Boockvar: (12:51)
So all that will be trackable, but we won’t have it today. So basically between provisional ballots and the poll books, and then of course the mail-in ballots, as you all know, like only one vote can be counted for any voter. So you’ll be able to see all of that, but it will take some time for that data to be quantified. Yes, sir.
Speaker 7: (13:14)
Last night your comment was that you didn’t know how many mail-in ballots had arrived yesterday. Do we know yet how many ballots arrived yesterday? What is the number of mail-in ballots that-
Kathy Boockvar: (13:25)
I don’t have that with me this morning, but check on the dashboard. And that will be updated throughout the day. Yeah. Sorry. Jan
Representative Danny Hop keeps raising this point about how ballots that arrived yesterday that can still be counted, may not have a legible postmark on them and raising questions about whether or not they should be counted or not. He said it’s because of the prepaid envelope that the state provided. I was wondering if you could speak to that.
Kathy Boockvar: (14:00)
Sure. I’m not sure, he may be confusing. So anything that arrived yesterday, doesn’t matter whether it’s postmarked or not. Anything had arrived yesterday is a valid vote. That’s what Pennsylvania law has always been. Talking about the late arriving ballots. First of all, the way we did prepaid postage in Pennsylvania is we went to the counties where they are. So if they wanted it to be through their business reply mail, a USPS permit, we did it that way. If they wanted to literally have us reimburse them for stamps or metered postage, we did it however they want.
Kathy Boockvar: (14:32)
So some of them are not even … I don’t remember how many, but we could get you that information. How many counties are using business reply mail, but those are still postmarked. They have timing marks. They are date stamped. They are still trackable by date. It’s a tiny fraction of any those things, whether it’s business reply mail or regular mail. I mean, we’ve all had that situation where you get a letter and it’s not postmarked. It’s rare. Same for business reply mail, they do what’s called a timing mark. So that’s just, it’s not accurate. They’re all stamped.
If there is one of those rare occasions, would it be counted?
Kathy Boockvar: (15:12)
So under the current Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, which is currently the law, yes. As long as there’s no affirmative evidence that it was postmarked after November 3rd, as long as it’s received by November 6th at 5:00 PM, it will be counted. Yes.
Speaker 9: (15:26)
It’s my understanding that the state’s website is showing 18 counties with 0% mail-in ballots counted. Is that accurate? Do you have any insight into that?
Kathy Boockvar: (15:38)
What I would suggest, sometimes counties are uploading on their own websites and haven’t transmitted the file to the Department of State because they have their own local races. So I urge you if you see any, and this is what we’re going to be doing throughout the day, go to the county website. You should always do that. It’s a great way to double check, but we’re going to be following up with all those counties to say, hey, make sure you get us the files. This year because we had, for the first time we had a website that was going to itemize the mail-in ballots from the in-person ballots from the provisionals, some of the counties when they uploaded the results, it merged the two types into one, and that was just, they formatted it wrong. So we’re working through that to make sure that the actual attribution of his ballots are right.
Speaker 9: (16:27)
We noticed that there’s a larger than expected number of counties that have reported none.
Kathy Boockvar: (16:31)
Yeah. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t counted, it may just be that it’s just not uploaded to the Department of State website yet. So I do urge you to check the county websites and see if that’s that’s available on their website.
Speaker 9: (16:42)
Last thing, I’m sorry, if I could just double back on something. If I heard you correctly in your introductory remarks, it was between 2.5 and 3 million mail-in ballots, and you’re roughly 50%? If you could speak with as much specificity as possible regarding that, that would be helpful.
Kathy Boockvar: (16:58)
Yeah, the numbers that I gave yesterday, it was just under 2.6 million as I recall. But again, I’m not sure what has additionally come in, but so as of yesterday, at some point, it was just under 2.6 million that had been cast. And that’s when I think I said it was 83% or something like that. We can get back to you. Again, from website you’ll have that information available to you. I just don’t have it in my fingertips today. Yes.
Speaker 10: (17:30)
Can you tell us how many mail-in ballots are upstanding on a county by county breakdown or is that also on the website?
Kathy Boockvar: (17:34)
It’s on the website. Yeah. So if you go to the regular ENR reporting website, it also tells you that you can click on the supplemental dashboard. And you click on that, it breaks down. There’s a tab for mail ballots that breaks it down by county. How many have been cast, how many have been counted and how many are remaining. There’s a tab for in-person precincts reporting broken down by county. So it tell you how many precincts are in each county. How many are fully reported. There’s a tap of provisional ballots, but you won’t see those numbers yet. Okay. Thank you.
Speaker 11: (18:19)
I want to cite Lancaster County, because what they’re saying is that if they count anything that you’re authorizing them to segregate, they won’t be able to go back if there’s some ruling and remove those counts, what’s your response to that?
Kathy Boockvar: (18:31)
It’s not accurate. And again, we sent an email to the counties yesterday. I think I said this yesterday, we spoke to all of the voting system vendors. It is absolutely feasible, and not even challenging. I mean, there are different ways to do it. You can use different machines. You can use different memory sticks. You can absolutely segregate them. That’s not going to be a problem. We’d send this email to the counties, giving them instructions, advising them to talk directly to their voting system vendors.
Speaker 11: (19:03)
What if they don’t comply, if they don’t count them?
Kathy Boockvar: (19:07)
We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I expect them all to comply. All right. Thank you.