Pennsylvania's Allegheny County pauses ballot counting until Friday

Vote counting has been paused until Friday in a blue district of Pennsylvania that encompasses Pittsburgh after a federal court ordered about 29,000 ballots be set aside until after the state’s deadline to receive mail ballots for the 2020 election.

Allegheny County Board of Elections Chairman Rich Fitzgerald said the 29,000 ballots would not be handled or processed until after 5 p.m. EST on Friday, the deadline for ballots postmarked on Nov. 3 to be received and counted in the presidential election.

The ballots in question stem from an incident in which a vendor sent ballots with wrong information to thousands of people. The ballots had to be reissued and the court has ordered the returned ballots to be set aside until after the deadline to give them closer scrutiny and to ensure that there are no duplicates.

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The county also has an additional 6,800 ballots that were damaged, missing a secrecy envelope, or had other technical issues that will be examined by adjudicators on Friday. The county cannot legally adjudicate the ballots on Thursday because it is swearing in dozens of election board members on Friday morning, the earliest day they can be sworn in under the law.

In addition, the county is expecting between 10,000 and 15,000 provisional ballots, although these boxes have not been opened, tallied or counted yet.

Fitzgerald stressed that election workers are not taking a day off before continuing to count. Rather, he said staff are doing all the prep work possible to ensure they can hit the ground running on Friday to move through the damaged ballots, provisional ballots and contested ballots.

“We want to make sure every vote is counted,” Fitzgerald said.

All told, there are approximately 36,000 ballots in Allegheny County needing to be counted, plus the thousands of expected provisional ballots.

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That vote count could be enormously consequential to the outcome in Pennsylvania, where President TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE must win to have a pathway to 270 electoral votes.

Trump currently leads by just over 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania, although Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' MORE has cut deep into those margins as absentee ballots are counted in major metro areas.

Biden leads big in Allegheny County, winning about 59 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Trump, with 92 percent of the vote estimated to be counted.