Battleground Pennsylvania: A look at the 2020 Election in Potter & McKean Counties

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COUDERSPORT, Pa. (WIVB-TV) – On Thursday night, the gap was narrowing in Pennsylvania. 

Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump was leading the race in the Keystone state by more than 115,000 votes. By Thursday night, Joe Biden closed the gap to just 26,000 votes, according to CBS.

“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,” noted Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar Thursday afternoon. 

The addition of mail-in ballots has big a big difference-maker in the 2020 election. Even in some of the most rural of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, the numbers increased substantially. 

“On a normal Presidential year, like in 2016, I believe the number we sent out was like 700 absentee ballots. This year for 2020, we mailed out 1,958,” said Sandra Lewis, the Elections Director in Potter County. 

Potter County – like much of the state’s Northern Tier, where there are several times as many registered Republicans as there are Democrats – got back nearly 1,600 of those ballots. 

Both Potter and McKean report higher voter turnout this year, with McKean County up 8 percent from 2016. 

“So in 2016, we had 829 absentees that we sent out, and this year, the absentee and mail-in numbers are together, and we had 4,937,” said Lisa Pratt, the Elections Director in McKean County. 

Neither county had drop boxes for absentee or mail-in ballots like many of New York’s counties got to help ease mail skepticism. Both counties, however, to deliver their ballots in person. 

Ballot counting across the state was still underway Thursday night. 

“I know all of you, everybody around the country, around the state are eagerly awaiting, and I can tell you the counties are too,” said Boockvar during a press conference. “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.” 

“We knew that this was going to be a very eyes-on-us the state election, so we just…we made sure that our job was done, and we did it correctly, and we just knew that it was going to be a little bit of a challenge, but we moved forward,” said Lewis. 

Pratt stopped short of calling this a higher-pressure election than in years’ past but did note mail-in ballots and it being a Presidential election year added to the workload. 

“So those two things combined, we needed a little more staff than normal. It’s just been a lot busier than normal,” Pratt said. 

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