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All ballots will be counted, state officials say, after Trump promises lawsuit

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar on Monday shot down concerns that President Donald Trump could declare himself victorious before all ballots are counted.

Her statements came a day after Trump threatened to send lawyers to Pennsylvania — tasked with challenging late-arriving mail-in ballots or halting counting altogether — shortly after the polls close Tuesday night.

Trump's comments on Sunday further elevated fears that the president, who has consistently cast doubt on the electoral process and echoed false claims mail-in ballots led to fraud, would name himself the winner against Democrat Joe Biden while tens of thousands of ballots remained uncounted, the news website Axios reported.

“That would be so unsubstantiated in every way, shape or form, were somebody  to declare victory when a fraction of the ballots are counted,” Boockvar said. “Elections are never finished on election night.”

More:Liberal PAC targets York County seniors, Trump plans last-minute Pa. rallies

More:Here's what York County residents need to know ahead of Election Day

Trump's gripes about ballot counting have been compounded by Pennsylvania's plans to allow counties to count ballots received via mail through Friday, so long as they're postmarked on or before Tuesday. Seven counties report they  won't even begin counting mail-in ballots until the day after Election Day.

"As soon as that election's over, we're going in with our lawyers," Trump said Sunday.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to rule on a Republican-led challenge to the state's allowance granting county elections offices extra time to count ballots, giving the green light for counting to extend beyond Election Day.

President Donald Trump smiles at first lady Melania Trump after she introduced him at a campaign rally Thursday outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Last month, Republicans in the state Legislature killed legislation that would have allowed counties to pre-canvass or process mail-in ballots before Election Day. 

A call for  additional time has been echoed throughout the state, as more than 3 million voters requested mail-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pennsylvania state officials, though, have shown no signs — or particular concerns — about the president threatening a legal battle over ballot counting.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro took to Twitter on Monday, seemingly welcoming any Trump-led lawsuit.

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

Trump's threats of litigation came as polls showed Biden holding a lead in  battleground states, including Pennsylvania.

In a high-turnout scenario in Pennsylvania, for example, Biden led Trump by 7 points, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday. That dropped to a 5-point lead in the case of low turnout.

However, both of those figures are based on the assumption that ballot counting isn't cut short.

"He (Biden) can still win by 5-7 pts ***IF*** all those ballots are counted," tweeted Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University Polling Institute, on Monday.

If everything goes as planned in the state, Pennsylvania expects that all ballots will be counted "within several days" after Election Day, Boockvar has said.

For those who plan to vote in person, polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. In-person voters are encouraged to wear masks at the polls. 

There could be some relief this election in regards to long wait times, as the sheer number of voters using mail-in ballots could mean fewer people at polling locations.

It is  still possible lines will be a factor on Tuesday, Boockvar said, because of those who may need to use a provisional ballot.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.