PHILADELPHIA — As the ballot count continues Friday, the nation has been gripped by the election contest in Pennsylvania, where former vice president Joe Biden snagged a narrow lead Friday morning and has been steadily inching ahead to a victory that would propel him to the White House.
There are about 89,282 mail-in ballots left to be counted, according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s latest numbers, most of which are from Philadelphia and Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located.
At a press conference in Philadelphia on Friday, officials thanked the public for their patience and called the election "a victory for democracy."
“While some including the president continue to spew baseless claims of fraud, claims for which his team has not produced one iota of evidence, what we have seen here in Philadelphia is a democracy, pure and simple," Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters. "Our Founding Fathers who conceived this system just a 15-minute walk down the street — I know [they] would be proud."
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City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said they are counting ballots "as quickly as we can without sacrificing accuracy," but that it could take "several days."
Later on Friday, another city commissioner, Al Schmidt, said that there were still 20,000-25,000 mail-in ballots left to count in Philadelphia. Included in that number are the estimated 300 ballots that arrived on Wednesday and another estimated 400 that arrived Thursday. Ballots that are postmarked Nov. 3 but arrived up to three days after that date are segregated, following a Supreme Court order, and the court may rule at a later date whether or not those ballots can be counted.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told CNN Friday that there are more than 28,000 ballots that will be processed after 5 p.m. ET (a court had ordered those ballots, which were misprinted by a contractor and sent to voters, to be segregated and then reviewed to ensure voters had only cast one ballot), as well as an additional 3,000–4,000 ballots that had other issues.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, told CBS News on Friday that once all provisional ballots are counted and certified — which could take weeks — he believes Biden’s lead over Trump will widen to more than 100,000 votes. Biden currently leads by nearly 29,000 votes.
As of Friday afternoon, Pennsylvania had 85,000 provisional ballots, AP reported, 15,000-20,000 of which are from Philadelphia and 17,000 from Allegheny County.
Casey also shot down Trump’s unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud on MSNBC, calling it “a desperate attempt to deal with what is an impending loss.”
“Joe Biden is going to win Pennsylvania,” he said. “The only question now is by how much.”
Although elections analysis firm Decision Desk HQ called Pennsylvania on Friday morning, most other outlets, including BuzzFeed News, have not done so. A victory in Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, would drive the Democratic nominee over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the presidential election. (BuzzFeed News partners with Decision Desk HQ to use its election data and display its projected results, but for close and consequential race calls, BuzzFeed News will often wait for a second source and conduct independent reporting and analysis.)
The Associated Press explained why it has not called Pennsylvania for Biden, citing the close margin between both candidates and the significant number of outstanding votes.
Drew McCoy of DDHQ told BuzzFeed News that although they expect Pennsylvania to remain a tight race as the outstanding votes are tallied, they called the state because the remaining votes are coming in from areas that are going strongly to Biden (e.g., Philadelphia and Allegheny County).
“So given the fact the vote out there still to be counted is coming from areas and methods that have gone very strongly for Joe Biden, and the fact there were still ballots to be counted in Philadelphia, we were very comfortable making the call,” he said.
McCoy said he believes the margin between both candidates in Pennsylvania will not fall in the recount range of 0.5%, unlike in Georgia, a state that DDHQ did not call because the margin is so slim (about 3,900 votes currently separate the two candidates). Biden also pulled ahead there overnight, and Georgia's secretary of state has said that there will be a recount.
"We are extremely confident in this call," McCoy said of the Pennsylvania determination. "We are standing behind it and [there are] no doubts about the outcome here."
Philadelphia's mayor, Kenney, was on the same page about a Biden victory. At the press conference Friday, he expressed unequivocal confidence that Biden had won the presidential race.
He called on President Trump to concede and commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
“What I think what the president needs to do is, frankly, put his big boy pants on,” Kenney said. “He needs to acknowledge the fact that he lost, and he needs to congratulate the winner, just as Jimmy Carter did, just as George H.W. Bush did, and frankly just as Al Gore did, and let us move forward as a country.”
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Throughout the streets of Philadelphia, protests turned into parties on Friday, with people dancing, bands playing music, and signs featuring local mascot Gritty being proudly displayed.
Expecting an imminent Biden victory, Pennsylvania supporters danced to a drum-heavy remix of Flo Rida’s “Get Low,” as well as “YMCA,” one of Trump’s favorite campaign songs. One woman broke it down to Beyoncé’s feminist anthem “Run the World (Girls)” while wearing her cat in a backpack.
“Philly is tough,” said resident Zoe Fox, as she and her toddler daughter Lili handed out flowers. “No one fights Philly. Philly fights back. You wanna mess with us? We’re gonna get the whole city on the streets: toddlers, dogs, flowers. Whatever we’ve got, we’re gonna bring it out.”
Amber Jamieson reported from Philadelphia. Clarissa-Jan Lim and Julia Reinstein reported from New York City.