How Prepared Are These 7 Battlegrounds for the Election? A Readiness Report

Election Day, which will require far more poll workers given the larger number of voting locations, will present another stress test for the state’s voting system.

Few states are still facing more litigation-driven uncertainty than Pennsylvania.

The state has had its plans to install drop boxes hung up in the courts for months; the question of whether it will be able to accept ballots that arrive after Election Day has been similarly stalled. The state legislature still hasn’t decided on allowing election officials to begin processing ballots early. And Kathy Boockvar, the secretary of state, is still awaiting guidance from the state Supreme Court as to whether election officials have to perform signature matching checks on absentee ballots.

“Pennsylvania is the one everyone is worried about,” said Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at M.I.T. who runs the university’s Election Data and Science Lab.

While all of this uncertainty might seemingly depress enthusiasm for mail ballots, Pennsylvania voters are still requesting them at a record clip. More than 2.7 million ballots have been requested, and about 683,000 have been returned. Yet at the moment, election officials in the state’s 67 counties cannot touch the ballots until Election Day, raising the likelihood that full results will not be known for days.

By law, Pennsylvania does not offer any form of in-person early voting. But Ms. Boockvar has worked with county officials to set up satellite elections offices where voters can come and vote by absentee ballot in person (as in, request a ballot in person, receive it, fill it out there and then drop it off). The offices are intended to expand voting options and help decrease an expected surge on Election Day. But so far, only five of the state’s 67 counties — Philadelphia, Centre, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — have set up offices.

The lack of true in-person voting means Pennsylvania will most likely have a large Election Day turnout. Though the statewide poll worker recruitment effort was successful — more than 56,000 raised their hands — Pennsylvania has strict rules stating that a poll worker can serve only in the county in which they are registered to vote.

The city is also bracing for a potentially contentious Election Day, and Lawrence S. Krasner, the district attorney for Philadelphia, is expanding the regular Election Day task force.

“We have probably at this point over 60 of our 300 attorneys who are volunteering to handle these duties on top of their other duties,” Mr. Krasner said. “And it’s my expectation, in light of the conversation I’ve had with the Philadelphia Police Department, that they are going to ramp that up for Election Day.”

Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.

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