General State Info

  • Total # of Delegates: 20
  • Total Voting Eligible Population: 9,781,976
  • Governor: Democrat
  • State House: Republican
  • State Senate: Republican

State of the Race

RCP Polling Average (10/29-11/2): Biden 48.7% – Trump 47.5%

Cook Political Report Rating: Lean Democrat

FiveThirtyEight Forecast (11/3): Biden is “favored” to win Pennsylvania


Early Voting Key Facts

  • “Curing” Mail Ballots: Pennsylvania is not one of the 18 states which has a curing statute.
    • The PA Department of State has offered general guidelines on how to handle ballots with errors, but in practice, counties have considerable discretion to chart their own course.
      • As a result, some counties will be aggressive in contacting voters who have sent in potentially invalid ballots, while others will not provide any notice. For more details on this, see here.
  • Secrecy Envelope Requirement: PA also requires that by mail voters place their ballot inside of a “secrecy envelope” — if the voter does not put their ballot in the secrecy envelope, their vote will not count.
    • Vox provided a great explanation of this controversial policy:
      • “Once you fill out the ballot itself, you must place it inside the provided secrecy envelope, which contains no information about your identity. Then you put the sealed secrecy envelope inside a different postage-paid addressed return envelope, on which you have to sign your name and write your address. If you forget the secrecy envelope — simply dropping your ballot in the ordinary return envelope — your ballot will be deemed a “naked ballot.” And, according to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, election officials will have to throw it out. The reason for the secrecy envelope, in theory, is to preserve the secret ballot and to prevent potential fraud. That is: once election officials receive the mail-in ballot, they use the outer envelope to verify that the person voting is registered and hasn’t already voted, without being able to see who the vote is for. Only later will the secrecy envelope actually be opened and counted. But the risk is that if the rule is implemented very strictly, many voters’ non-fraudulent ballots will be thrown out on what’s essentially a technicality, simply because they misunderstood the rules.”
  • RECOUNT?: Automatically triggered if margin is 0.5% or less. The recount must take place by the third Wednesday following the election and must be completed by the following Tuesday. (§3154(e))
    • If the race is not within 0.5% , voters can request a recount — according to Slate:
      • “A signed petition from three voters alleging fraud or error can prompt a recount, without having to cite any specific cases or evidence of fraud. The petition would need to be filed within five days of the election result. For the automatic recounts, the task will need to be completed within three weeks of the election. But for those alleging fraud or error, there is no official deadline.”
      • “While the campaign cannot directly demand a recount, candidates can appeal the officials’ decision regarding whether to recount the votes or not to the courts.If a recount is approved, officials will compare the numbers of ballots returned and processed, and count the votes again using the same methods as in the first count. If there appears to be no evidence of fraud and the election outcome is unchanged in any significant way, the candidate will have to foot the bill for the recount. The results would need to be submitted within three weeks.”

Early Vote & General FAQ

  • Likelihood Pennsylvania is the “tipping point state” in the 2020 election?
  • How has Pennsylvania voted in recent Presidential Elections?
  • What happened in the 2016 Presidential Election? 
  • Does it take longer to process mail-in ballots compared to in-person ballots (via early voting or on election day)?
    • Yes. Mail-in ballots will certainly take longer to process and count than in-person ballots in Pennsylvania.
  • Is Pennsylvania well-equipped to handle the surge in mail-in ballots for the upcoming election?
    • No. Pennsylvania is unaccustomed to this quantity of mail-in ballots, and their state statutes are not conducive to efficient counting and processing. 
  • What are some plausible, non-malicious voting related causes of delay that might prevent Pennsylvania from calling the race on election night?
    • PA’s late start on processing means that they have won’t have enough time to count all their votes on November 3rd.

Election Night Questions

  • Will there be a: Red Mirage, Blue Mirage, No Mirage?
  • Who will be ahead during the first return(s) on election night? Why?
    • President Trump will almost certainly be ahead during the first returns on election night. Despite optimistic predictions from election officials, we project that Pennsylvania will be one of the slowest states in terms of processing and tallying mail-in ballots and certainly will not have them complete by election night. 
  • Who will get more mail-in votes?
    • We project Vice President Biden to lead the mail-in voting numbers by a wide margin. 
  • Who will get more votes on election day?
    • We project President Trump to lead in the in-person Election Day numbers
  • Will Pennsylvania be able to call the race on election night?
    • Unless the in-person votes are an incredible landslide (which is unlikely), Pennsylvania will not be able to call the race on election night.

Mail Ballot Requests by Party Registration

No Party Affiliation337,70110.9
Data as of 11/3. Source:

Mail Ballots Returned by Party Registration

No Party Affiliation260,04710.4
Data as of 11/3. Source:
Note: Graphic above (10/30) based on TargetSmart’s “Modeled” data which — party affiliation derived from internal TargetSmart modeling.


Mail Ballots Returned by Age

AgeReturned BallotsFreq. DistributionRequested BallotsReturn Rate
18 to 24183,9567.3261,81270.3
25 to 34303,60412.1410,40374.0
35 to 44293,92211.7380,25277.3
45 and 55300,48312.0379,80179.1
56 and 65474,40718.9570,68683.1
66 and up950,09837.91,095,49686.7
Data as of 11/3. Source: