Nation Looks to Swinging Pennsylvania as Votes Roll In

A voter, right, checks in with an election worker before casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — As Pennsylvania votes begin to roll in, it remains to be seen whether President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden will take the state and 20 electoral votes that come with it.

At 64% reporting at 2:45 a.m., Trump held a lead over Biden, leading with 56.1% of the vote while Biden has 42.7%.

Two of the first counties to begin to submit their votes were Allegheny County, which surrounds Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia County — both are considered the state’s democratic strongholds. According to the New York Times vote tracker, both counties have yet to report the majority of their estimated votes. Philadelphia County and Allegheny County had reported 22% and 16% of their estimated votes, respectively.

The state’s polls closed at 8 p.m., but at a polling place in the Northwest region of Philadelphia in the neighborhood of Manayunk, there was no line to vote at one polling place in the hour beforehand. Voters walked straight in to cast their ballots without waiting.

Voting there was easy, according to Dan Solomon, who trickled in after 7 p.m.

He arrived with his brother Cole Solomon, a first-time voter who had been occupied with school and extracurriculars during the day. They walked down to the polls so they could cast their ballots together.

“It seemed pretty normal,” Cole said, despite the pandemic. 

Both cast their ballots for Biden.

“We voted blue down the ticket,” Dan said, noting they were looking forward to watching the results unfold.

Jesse, another voter who opted not to give his last name for privacy reasons, said that he’d opted to vote after work after checking in the morning and seeing a line around the block.

“I timed it perfectly,” he said. “I was like, ‘As long as I’m in line by seven, I’ll be good.’ And there was no line, it was perfect.”

While he declined to share who he voted for, Jesse said the presidential race this year was one between “two geriatrics.”

“That’s what we had — it was terrible,” he said. “I wish we could have a third party, a fourth party. Multiple parties would be fantastic or rank voting, I really want that to be an option. I pretty much hated this entire election cycle. I voted just kind of out of obligation.”

He is not planning on watching the election unfold state-by-state.

“I don’t feel like dealing with all the craziness that’s going to go on,” Jesse said. “It was too much stress four years ago. I don’t want to go through the ups and downs of it.”

As he removed campaign signs from a fence outside the polling location, Joe Willard, a Democratic committee person who had spent the day campaigning for Biden outside, said it was hard to tell if voter turnout at this polling place had been especially high. He also said he wasn’t sure how many people had opted to mail-in ballots in the region. 

Pennsylvania is considered a key swing state as it has roughly the same amount of registered Republican and Democratic voters. Statistically, it’s also proven a rather remarkable indicator of which way the presidency will go. The state has sided with the presidential victor in 10 of the last 12 presidential elections, including Trump in 2016.

While Biden’s aides say he has multiple paths to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the state, taking the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would be the most clean-cut path. 

Biden has campaigned in Pennsylvania more heavily than he has in any other state — no exception being on Election Day, which he kicked off by greeting supporters at his childhood home in Scranton. Afterward, Biden stopped in Philadelphia for a lunch U.S. House Rep. Dwight Evans hosts every year in his Philadelphia neighborhood. There, he told voters that the country was ready for a new leader. 

“We’re going to have more people come this year than any time in American history,” Biden told the approximately 100 supporters who had shown up to see him.

He also bashed the possibility of Trump declaring victory early on election night.

“The president’s got a lot of things backwards. One of them is he thinks he gets to decide who votes,” Biden said. “Well guess what? We get to decide who’s president!”

Later that day, when asked by reporters about whether he would respond if Trump does declare victory prematurely, Biden said he would not. 

“No matter what he does, no matter what he says, the votes are going to be counted,” Biden said.

Regardless, he added that he was still hesitant to predict his own victory.

“I’m superstitious about predicting what an outcome will be before it happens, that’s sorta who I am and how I’ve always run,” he said. “But I’m hopeful.”

In 2016, Pennsylvania was one of six purple states — along with Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida — that tipped to Trump; he won the state by roughly 1% from Hillary Clinton. 

A Monmouth University poll released Monday had Biden leading the president 51% to 44% among the state’s likely voters. If a large number of ballots are rejected, the poll also lobbed a low-turnout prediction of Biden leading Trump 50% to 45% if a large amount of mail-in ballots are rejected. 

Of the 3 million Pennsylvania voters who requested to vote by mail, approximately 2.5 million returned their mail-in ballots. This is less than half of the voter turnout that Pennsylvania saw in 2016. Broken down by party, mail-in ballots were requested by Democrats, Republicans and independents at 63%, 25% and 12%, respectively. 

The state is set to accept mail-in ballots that arrive at polling places as late as Friday as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Late last week, before the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave conservatives a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court refused to let Republicans challenge that deadline extension. 

However, Trump has called the high court’s refusal to rule out the extension a “terrible decision” and warned Sunday that his campaign will be “going in with our lawyers” when polls close in Pennsylvania on Election Day.

Given the president’s track record, however, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro showed little concern.

“FACT CHECK: Our elections are over when all the votes are counted,” Shapiro tweeted Sunday. “But if your lawyers want to try us, we’d be happy to defeat you in court one more time.”

The Trump administration has been hit with an injunction against its Postal Service policy changes in another case with Shapiro at the helm, and the state Supreme Court kept the Election Day extensions in place with a 5-2 ruling.

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