Guide to Absentee & Mail-In Balloting Results
The Election Results Dashboard shows the progress of Absentee & Mail-in processing. This process takes longer to complete than the in-person vote count due to the manual nature of ballot processing.
The number of ballots returned to Voter Services reflects the number of Absentee & Mail-in ballots that have been returned to Voter Services by 8 p.m. on Election Day. This includes ballots that were returned by mail, by drop box, or at a Voter Services office location.
Montgomery County Sheriffs will be at each ballot drop box at 8 p.m. on Election Day to close and lock the ballot drop box and complete the final pick-up. The Sheriffs will then transport the ballots to Voter Services for sorting & counting.
The number of returned ballots posted on the website will increase once the ballots from the final drop box pick-up have been transported back to Voter Services in Norristown by the Sheriffs.
Any ballot received after 8 p.m. on Election Day cannot be counted.
The number of Absentee & Mail-in ballots counted indicates the number of eligible Absentee & Mail-in ballots that have been counted.
The number of Absentee & Mail-in ballots pending evaluation reflects how many Absentee & Mail-in ballots still need to be processed.
Ballots can be pending evaluation for the following reasons:
- By Pennsylvania law, ballots cannot begin to be processed until 7 a.m. on Election Day. The length of time it takes to complete ballot processing depends on the number of ballots received. It takes longer to count Absentee & Mail-in ballots due to the manual nature of the process, which is why results continue to update as eligible ballots are counted.
- If a ballot is returned without the required identification information, Pennsylvania law provides up to seven days after the Election to submit the missing information. If the information is not received within the seven day period, the ballot will not be counted.
Awaiting further evaluation
- Ballots with incomplete or inaccurate voter declarations, other potential defects or damage are segregated and examined to determine if they should be counted or rejected.
- Sometimes, ballots are set aside due to legal challenges by either of the political parties or candidates. Those ballots will continue to be set aside until the court issues a decision on how they should be handled.
How are Absentee & Mail-In ballots stored before Election Day?
Ballots are delivered by the United States Postal Service, individual voters, or Montgomery County Sheriffs who collect ballots daily from secure drop boxes throughout the county. All Absentee & Mail-in ballots are timestamped upon arrival at the Voter Services Office in Norristown and the record of the voter who returned the ballot is updated to indicate they have returned their Absentee or Mail-in ballot. Ballots are stored in a secure area under 24 hour video surveillance until they are legally able to be processed beginning at 7 a.m. on Election Day.
How does Montgomery County process Absentee & Mail-In Ballots on Election Day?
Canvassing is the process of opening the ballots. A bipartisan canvassing board takes part in processing the ballots. Voter Services works with both political parties to recruit the Canvass Board. They receive training and must demonstrate proficiency in order to be scheduled to work on Election Day.
Steps taken to process each ballot:
- Bipartisan teams begin by opening the outside return envelope. The return envelope is set aside so it cannot be linked to the ballot.
- The secrecy envelope is checked for writing that would identify the voter. Any envelopes with identifying marks are set aside.
- Secrecy envelopes without any identifying marks are then opened and the ballot is taken out.
- The secrecy envelope is set aside and then the ballot is unfolded and flattened to make it easier to be read by the scanners.
- The last step is to scan the ballot through the high-speed scanners to record each vote.
Results are uploaded to the county website and Department of State beginning after the polls close. This process will continue until each eligible ballot is able to be counted.
What are some reasons why an Absentee or Mail-In Ballot would not be counted?
Canvassers are trained to request legal assistance if they encounter any of the following scenarios:
Incomplete Voters Declaration
- The voter did not complete the declaration on the outer envelope with their signature & date
- The voter sealed their ballot into the secrecy envelope but did not use the outer envelope with the declaration to return their ballot.
Missing Secrecy Envelope
- The voter did not seal their voted ballot into the secrecy envelope before placing it into the return envelope. These are also referred to as “naked ballots.”
Identifying Marks on the Secrecy Envelope or Ballot
- The voter wrote their name or address on their ballot or secrecy envelope.
Received after 8 PM on Election Day
- Ballots received after 8 PM on Election Day cannot be counted.
What are some ways that Voter Services ensures that no one casts more than one ballot?
The Pennsylvania Voter Registration system does not allow more than one ballot to be issued to a voter.
Once a ballot is received by Voter Services in Norristown, the record of the voter who returned the ballot is updated to indicate they have returned their Absentee or Mail-in ballot. Voter Services can only record the receipt of one ballot per voter.
If the voter has provided their email address, they receive an email indicating that their ballot has been received and they cannot vote at the polls.
Each polling location receives a listing of all voters who have either applied to vote by mail or who have returned a ballot prior to Election Day. A poll worker must not issue an in person ballot to a voter who has already returned their Absentee or Mail-in ballot.
A poll worker may only issue a ballot to a voter who applied for an Absentee or Mail-in ballot if they surrender their Absentee or Mail-in balloting materials & sign a document affirming that they did not cast a ballot in any other manner and are entitled to vote at their polling location. If the poll book indicates that a voter applied for or returned their Absentee or Mail-in ballot and the voter still wishes to cast a vote at the polls, the Judge of Elections may issue them a provisional ballot to fill out at their polling place. Click here to learn more about how Provisional Ballots are evaluated.