Nov 5, 2020
Pennsylvania Officials Press Conference on Election Vote Count Transcript November 5
Pennsylvania officials held a press conference on November 5 to provide updates on ongoing vote counts. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Kathy Boockvar: (03:52)
I have no pockets tonight. Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining me here, yet again. We’re coming in the home stretch here. The counties have been working incredibly, incredibly hard. Hundreds of thousands of ballots have been counted so far today, and we’re in very good shape, but there’s still some to count. So they are working incredibly hard. They’re going to keep counting into the evening and stay tuned. So let’s see. We’ve been very closely in touch with all 67 counties, making sure that they’re reporting on as regular basis as possible. I know all of you, everybody around the country, around the state are eagerly awaiting, and I can tell you the counties are too. They are really taking their time, making sure that every single voter in the Commonwealth who has cast their ballot is having those ballots accurately and securely counted.
Kathy Boockvar: (04:58)
So as you know, we’re going to keep counting. Military and overseas ballots, I think are coming in. Those will continue to be accepted through next Tuesday. There are obviously provisional ballots that will have to be counted as well after the initial round of ballot. And I think whatever the outcomes are, I can tell you that I’m so proud to work with the 67 counties and election officials who are just doing an amazing job, getting these counted accurately and securely. So I am happy I think with that to take your questions. Yes?
Speaker 2: (05:40)
The integrity of the election has certainly been questioned quite a bit over the past several days. That it seems to be intensifying now in these final States that we’re waiting to hear from. What is your message to the people of Pennsylvania and people in the country about the way things work here in Pennsylvania?
Kathy Boockvar: (05:58)
So as we’ve been talking about for months, Pennsylvanians have more choices on how they’ve been able to vote this year than they’ve ever had in the history of the Commonwealth. And no matter how they voted, what’s critical here is that we have very strong processes in place that make sure that voting integrity and security are constantly followed by every County in the state. So for example, we talked about, I think it was yesterday voting by mail in Pennsylvania. So the processes though it’s new under Act 77, that we can all vote by mail. It’s the same processes that we’ve used for decades for absentee voting. So voters have to apply.
Kathy Boockvar: (06:43)
They’re checked against either social security database or the PennDOT database, they’re checked against their voter record to make sure that they’re a qualified voter, and they are who they say they are. They cast their ballot. And then they’re checked again when the ballot is received, that they were actually an approved voter, very secure. The strength of the integrity of this vote is really unparalleled. Same when you vote in person, right? You have to be registered. You go in, you sign in the poll book. All these things are tracked, our voting systems and our databases make sure that no voter can cast more than one vote. It literally has a hard stop should anybody even try. And the counties, again, as I’ve talked about the amazing County election officials, they take this so seriously, they are such professionals. So I can just say really, no matter how you chose to vote this year. And so many Pennsylvanians have, and it looks like it’s really going to be a great turnout when we finalize the numbers, that every method is incredibly safe and secure. Yes?
Speaker 2: (07:53)
Kathy Boockvar: (07:55)
Speaker 3: (07:55)
Hey, secretary. Hey, you’ve said, if I understand it correctly, that enough results may be coming in tonight for people to have a handle on who the winner in the presidential race is, what’s your basis for thinking that? And can you put a finer point on it? How long? What makes you say that?
Kathy Boockvar: (08:11)
So the counties are continuing to count. And so obviously depending on how close the race is, that impacts whether you… So you know, the final results are not certified until 20 days after the election, right? So I want to be clear. There’s no final results happening now anyway. What’s happening now is having enough ballots counted to actually see who the winner is, right? The farther apart that is, the easier it is to tell. So it’s very close in Pennsylvania, right? There’s no question. And so that means it’s going to take longer to actually see who the winner is, but I can tell you that there’s several hundred thousand ballots remaining to be counted. You can track all that, what counties it remains in, look at our website, and you’ll be able to see how we get to the conclusion.
Kathy Boockvar: (09:03)
But either way, I want to be clear that these are just the mail and absentee votes and the in-person votes, right? The overwhelming majority… Like I think the huge, huge majority of the in-person votes have been counted. We’re in a very good place with the mailer and absentee ballots, but not quite there yet, but then there’s still going to be provisional ballots, the military and overseas ballots and so forth. So the closer to the races, the longer it takes. But I think what I’ve said all along is that the overwhelming majority of ballots will be counted by Friday. I still think that we’re ahead of schedule and we’re actually already have counted the overwhelming majority of ballots, but because it’s a close race, it’s not quite clear yet who the winner is. So, yes?
Speaker 4: (09:47)
You’ve mentioned provisional ballots, a couple of times, how many of those have been passed statewide? And of those, how many have been counted and reported?
Kathy Boockvar: (09:58)
So very few have been counted. And that usually happens following the counting of the other ballots. So usually counties are not going to start that until after they’ve finished with the others generally. So we don’t know yet. We’ve been reaching out to the candidates. I know [inaudible 00:10:17] you or somebody else who asked me both about provisional ballot numbers and numbers of ballots arriving after election day after APM and election day. So provisional ballots, I think we’ve heard from maybe two-thirds of the County, so I don’t have a firm number yet. And as soon as we do, we’ll be able to report those numbers.
Speaker 4: (10:38)
Can you give me your best estimate?
Kathy Boockvar: (10:40)
The provisional ballots?
Speaker 4: (10:41)
Speaker 2: (10:41)
I think it’s still early, yet. So let’s touch base again, after I have more than the number that I have so far. Yeah?
Speaker 4: (10:48)
So no guesstimate at all?
Kathy Boockvar: (10:51)
The context matters, right? So if I tell you a number that reflects 41 counties, it could be not reflective of the whole because it matters which counties they are. So we will circle back with you. Yes? You, sorry.
Speaker 5: (11:07)
I know that you stand by the integrity of the election so far. Have you or any of the counties investigated any specific allegations of voter fraud?
Kathy Boockvar: (11:18)
No. No. I mean, I’m not aware of any… I mean, well, I should say you probably heard some weeks ago that there was a gentleman in Luzerne County who tried to apply for a ballot for his deceased mother. I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but that was several weeks ago. That was the only incident that I am aware of in this year. Yeah. Yes, sir?
Speaker 6: (11:42)
I know that you said a minute ago that you guys have counted the vast majority of the in-person election day votes. Can you give us a more specific sense of how many of those are outstanding? Is it fewer than the remaining mail-in votes?
Kathy Boockvar: (11:56)
Oh yeah. If you go to our website and the supplemental dashboard, if you look at the pie chart, it’s a tiny sliver. It may be the 99% are counted. But whether it’s 99 or 98.5 go to the dashboard and it will tell you.
Speaker 6: (12:12)
How much more beyond the mail-in ballots then?
Kathy Boockvar: (12:15)
I mean, there’s a tiny fraction of precincts that aren’t counted yet. Yeah. It’s a very, very, very small number. Yeah. Yes?
Speaker 7: (12:23)
Beyond standing of mail-in ballots. Have all counties segregated the ballots that came in after election day?
Kathy Boockvar: (12:32)
Right. So the ballots that have been counted so far are the ones that came in by November 3rd. So all the counties are going to be segregating any that came in after 8:00 PM on November 3rd through 5:00 PM on November six. Yes? Yes, Dennis?
Secretary, there are seven precincts in Allegheny County that aren’t reporting anything yet, that includes election day in person ballots. Do you know what’s going on there?
Kathy Boockvar: (13:04)
No, I don’t, but I’m happy to check with them afterwards. And I mean, I know what’s going on with some of the other things, but I don’t know what’s going on in those seven precincts. So thank you. We will reach out to them. Yes?
Speaker 8: (13:18)
[inaudible 00:13:18] know how many mail-in ballots might still be in route to election offices that were postmarked by the third?
Kathy Boockvar: (13:24)
Do we know how many are on route? No. I could tell you that the numbers that have come in so far are a tiny fraction of what came in after the primary. Usually, I mean, based on historical numbers, you get the most ballots the day after election day, and then it dwindles from there. So I don’t expect it to be a significant amount.
Speaker 8: (13:54)
Do you how many email ballots were surrendered at the polls on November 3rd?
Kathy Boockvar: (13:55)
Not yet. We will know that, once the counties do those… Because obviously those voter declarations had to be signed. And I think they’ll also be able to track the provisional ballot voters, the ones that didn’t surrender their ballot but that will take some time. Thank you. Yes?
Speaker 3: (14:16)
Have you or any of your staff taken any special safety precautions? And should the County workers who are doing the counting be concerned about their safety given the strong fields?
Kathy Boockvar: (14:29)
So by safety, you mean from the outside world?
Speaker 3: (14:32)
Physical safety, yes.
Kathy Boockvar: (14:36)
The counties really are in the best position to assess that. I mean, as you might imagine, we have a great Commonwealth, a lot of diversity from very rural counties to urban counties. So it’s really not a one size fits all assessment. We certainly talked to the counties and issued guidance and directives on security of the voting systems and the locations and all those things. But I think the physical security of the staff I would defer to the counties on.
Speaker 3: (15:09)
What about you and your staff? Have you taking any special precautions?
Kathy Boockvar: (15:13)
Speaker 3: (15:13)
Can you talk about those at all?
Kathy Boockvar: (15:16)
I mean, we have security, we make sure that we are safe and we make sure that where our operations are secure and safe. Yes, thank you. Yes, Jan?
I was going to ask you about the late arriving ballots, if you have any kind of idea of how many there are, but based on these questions, I get a sense you don’t know, but you did tell CNN today that it was anywhere from zero in some counties to hundreds and others. So, I mean, can you be a little bit more specific?
Kathy Boockvar: (15:43)
Yeah. I mean, again, it’s a significantly lower number than we thought, but I think we’ve heard from, I apologize. I forget exactly how many counties, so it’s not a full picture yet, but it’s a much less significant number. It’s like a fraction of what we saw in the primary. So I think we saw 60,000 in the three days following the primary. It’s not going to be anywhere near that. So again, I think I have maybe, two-thirds of the counties. And so I just want to make sure before I give… But what I said was true. There are some counties that got zero the day following, and there were some counties that got in the hundreds maybe 500, so that’s the range that I have now, but I just don’t want to give an overall picture until I make sure I have every County in. Thanks. But it really is smaller. Yes?
Speaker 10: (16:38)
Sorry if I could just double back on mail-ins, uncounted mail-ins, I think you said in your opening remarks that there were several hundred thousand outstanding and we’ve heard some varying numbers on that. Can you put a finer point on that at all? Just what kind of figure we’re looking at.
Kathy Boockvar: (16:53)
Go to the website and go to the dashboard it’s constantly changing. And so it just seems like as soon as I give a number, there are County results that get updated and it’s different than what I just said. It’s a moving target.
Speaker 10: (17:05)
What’s the last number that you were aware of?
Kathy Boockvar: (17:08)
I think it was in the 350,000 range. But again, as soon as I say that you’re going to go into the dashboard and it’s going to say it’s lower than that.
Speaker 10: (17:17)
[inaudible 00:17:17] difficult topic. And thank you for indulging me.
Kathy Boockvar: (17:20)
Speaker 10: (17:21)
Speaker 11: (17:22)
So on election night, results in Lancaster County were showing and amount well above the amount requested and then nearly double the amount of return. Could you explain why that happened? And if that was County specific.
Kathy Boockvar: (17:34)
I’m sorry, can you repeat that again?
Speaker 11: (17:36)
Sure. Yeah. In Lancaster County, on election night specifically, it was showing results for mail-in ballots that was well above the amount return and the the amount requested. Can you explain how that happened?
Kathy Boockvar: (17:50)
I can’t remember Lancaster County specifically. What I can tell you is that some of the counties the way… And Lancaster I’m thinking it probably had to do… So they’re one of the two counties that had hard path, hard voting systems, each voting system vendor, the way they translate with the data has worked slightly differently. And as you know, this dashboard and even the website, it’s the first year that we broke out provisional ballots, mail-in ballots and in-person. So some of the reporting, if the counties files were not done perfectly, it might merge to the categories. It might put things in the wrong category. So we’ve been working on all those quirks. Like I know for example, York was off for a little while, but that is now corrected. So that may have explained what was going on with the Lancaster. Most of it has been the County, the way they sent us the files, the data was just not in the right place, basically.
Speaker 11: (18:52)
[inaudible 00:18:52] that it was handled and taken care of is there a way that you can do that?
Kathy Boockvar: (18:55)
Well, it’s fixed. I mean, it’s fixed on the website. And I think I’ve said this prior of these, but you can always go to the County websites. You can look and see, it’s a easy way to double-check. Yes, Dennis?
Secretary, some tweets have surfaced, admittedly from a couple of years ago, your tweets suggesting negative things about Donald Trump. What do you say to people that say, “Geez, you’re the person overseeing this election and you have clearly partisan views on the matter.” What’s your response to that?
Kathy Boockvar: (19:25)
So my response is, look, these were four years ago and at the time I was not in the administration, I was not in any public service. I was a private citizen. It was a personal Twitter account. So that, and then when I became secretary of state, I took an oath, Dennis, and I took an oath to defend and protect the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the constitution of the United States and partisan politics have no place in the Pennsylvania department of state or any County elections’ office for that matter. I mean, we work for voting rights and for effective election administration. And I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that every voter, every candidate and every party have access to a fair, free, safe, and secure election. And I don’t care what their background is. And I don’t care what my background is. That’s what we do at the department of state. Thank you.