Media reminder—Pennsylvania vote count is slow because GOP wanted it that way

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An Election Week pitch.

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With all eyes on the states with outstanding vote counts, the tabulation in Pennsylvania is taking on major importance, as Trump's lead slowly melts away. And with it, perhaps, his chance of retaining the White House.

As the Pennsylvania process extends for several days, Republicans are falsely equating the wait for a final vote count there with a breakdown in the system. "We won't know [who won]," Trump complained. "We might not know for months, because these ballots are going to be all over." For months Trump has falsely claimed that the U.S. needed to know the winner on Election Night, or else it would indicate fraud on the part of Democrats.

The count delay has also given Republicans time to file bogus lawsuits in the commonwealth.

The media attention on the state is ceaseless. But too many reports are omitting crucial context — it's going slowly because Pennsylvania Republicans wanted it to go slowly. This isn't a fluke. That’s essential information that's been increasingly left out by the media as the week goes on.

National Public Radio recently reported that Pennsylvania "officials had their hands tied by state laws that did not allow for such preparation." But NPR never explained which party tied the hands of officials to make sure early votes would not be processed and counted ahead of time.

It was the Republican Party.



"Pennsylvania's governor pleaded for patience Tuesday night as his state began counting votes in a contest with the potential to decide it all in this year's presidential race," the Washington Post reported, but failed in the article to detail which party was to blame for the fact that "state law prohibited any counting of absentee ballots until Tuesday morning."

This detailed Politico report on the Pennsylvania count included no context about why it was taking so long. Meanwhile, countless cable news reports on the tabulations in Pennsylvania do so without explaining why the state had excess votes to count after Election Day.

Lots of journalists are so close to the Pennsylvania story — so obsessed with the raw data of the vote count — that they're losing sight of key context about the process taking so long because Republicans chose to make sure it took so long.

Like every other state, Pennsylvania this year was bracing for a record number of early, mail-in ballots as more and more voters during a pandemic opted to stay away from crowded polling places. (Pennsylvania received more than 2.5 million mail-in votes this year.) And with a mountain of ballots pouring into election centers, it was obvious the state would need many days to count the ballots.

Election officials in Pennsylvania called for a change in state law, which forbids those early ballots from being opened and tabulated until Election Day. If that law wasn't changed, it would mean final results in the commonwealth would not be known until days after the election, simply because the process is so much more arduous than electronic voting.

"Mail ballots take more time and resources to process than in-person votes. Election officials need to verify signatures, open envelopes, separate ballots from secrecy sleeves and sort them — all before they're fed through tabulators," NPR noted.

In two-thirds of states, laws now allow for officials to begin counting early votes and that's what Pennsylvania officials were urging. But the state legislature, controlled by Republicans, failed to change the law. They argued that the state has never before needed to pre-process absentee ballots, therefore it didn't need it now.

Democratic governor Tom Wolf tried to pass legislation that would have allowed counties to begin working on ballots to verify their validity before Election Day, but he was obstructed by the GOP-led legislature. 

In exchange for the common-sense move to approve early voting, Republicans demanded additional Election Day concessions. As negotiations continued last week, a Washington Post editorial stressed that the onus for failure rested with the GOP: "Republican lawmakers should not insist on getting something in return for doing the right thing."

The vast majority of states this year adjusted to the early vote revolution, and gave local officials a chance to start tallying mailed-in ballot days and sometimes weeks before Election Day. Pennsylvania did not because Republicans refused.

That's an important story for the press this week.

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How many times have we asked ourselves in recent years, do you laugh or do you cry? The amount of deliberate misinformation that now flies around, sponsored by conservatives, is obviously cause for concern. But sometimes it does make you laugh.

This report from the ABC affiliate, WXYZ, in Detroit represents the latter: “Video falsely claims possible voter fraud in Detroit. It actually shows a WXYZ photographer loading camera gear”:

A video making the rounds on social media and other platforms that claims to show voter fraud and a wagon being loaded outside of the TCF Center in Detroit is actually video of a WXYZ photographer loading his camera and other gear into a wagon for work.

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Tom Petty, "The Waiting"

Yes, Petty’s Byrds-vibe classic has been stuck in my head all week as we remained glued to our phones, computers, and TV's.

Here, he gets help from Eddie Vedder.

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part