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'Potential For Another National Crisis': Delay In Primary Ballot Counting Raises Concerns About Pa.'s November Election

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- We still don't have final election results in the statewide Democratic primary for auditor general.

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb is ahead, but it's not clear if he's going to win.

With new voting systems, consolidated polling places and a flood of mail-in ballots, everybody knew it could take longer than usual to declare the primary winners on Tuesday.

But it's Friday, and we still don't know who won the only contested statewide primary.

Election officials know that if this happens again in November, Pennsylvania could become the Florida of 2020.

Remember the delayed ballot count in Florida in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore? Nobody wants that here in Pennsylvania in 2020.

"What we have here is a potential for another national crisis," Larry Ceisler of Ceisler Media and a Philadelphia political analyst told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.

The failure of many counties, especially Philadelphia and its suburban counties, to count their mail-in ballots quickly is a disaster in the making, says Ceisler.

Ceisler: "There are approximately and probably more than a couple hundred thousand ballots out there as we sit here today."

Delano: "Still uncounted?"

Ceisler: "Still uncounted, but they're trying to make their way through it."

When those votes are finally counted, Pittsburgh's Lamb -- in the lead all week -- could lose to former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad.

"She has Philadelphia under her name, and people vote geography," says Ceisler.

WATCH: Full Interview With Larry Ceisler

The delay is because election officials in some counties were overwhelmed by this new mail-in voting system without adequate resources.

"That turns county boards of elections into a kind of giant mail house, processing mail, scanning ballots, counting ballots, and this is just something they've never done before," says David Thornburgh, CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia think-tank.

But counties will clearly have to learn how to count their votes much better before the presidential election on Nov. 3. Current state law does not allow counties to begin counting mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Amid protests over George Floyd's death across Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf said Philadelphia and five other counties can keep counting ballots in the primary election that arrive by mail for up to seven days after Tuesday's 8 p.m. deadline.

Now one large county that did the counting faster than most was Allegheny County. Election officials completed their count by Wednesday afternoon.

The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections in Pennsylvania, issued the following statement Friday afternoon:

"The department and administration have always supported the ability of the counties to start pre-canvassing ballots in the weeks leading up to election day, and we very much hope to work with the legislature to enable this legislative improvement before November.

"As for a timeline, counties are required by law to provide unofficial results to us by Tuesday, June 9, one week after the election, but many counties were hoping to finish canvassing today or Monday. We expect that most votes will be counted by Tuesday, though as you know, the six counties that were subject to the Executive Order extension may still receive some number of ballots that day that were postmarked by June 2.

"No one could have foreseen the volume of mail ballots used by Pennsylvania voters in this election- now over 1.4 million ballots statewide. The department believes every county has done an incredible job of dealing with the influx, and we reiterate that the most important thing is that every ballot be counted accurately."

Click here for the latest election results.

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