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People count votes in the Philadelphia Convention Center in 2020.
While vote-counting process won't be exactly like 2020, a last-minute vote from Philly City Commissioners could make it take just as long in 2022. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

What to know about Philly’s last-minute change to counting votes

In short, some votes will take longer to count, meaning the wait for results will also be longer.

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In a last-minute vote on the morning of Election Day, Philadelphia City Commissioners, the elected body that oversee elections in the city, voted 2-1 to reimplement a process known as poll book reconciliation, which will seriously slow the vote counting efforts that began at 7 a.m. this morning when the polls opened for in-person voting.

What is poll book reconciliation?

Poll book reconciliation, described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as a “time consuming and labor-intensive process,” is an effort to mark voters who both submitted a mail-in ballot and voted in person.

The process was made part of the vote counting in Philadelphia during the 2020 election given the major rise in mail-in ballots, and was a major reason it took the city multiple days to count all its ballots. The city became the center of the world in the days leading up to Joe Biden’s victory declaration on the Saturday after Election Day. It came after he was declared the winner of Pennsylvania, which relied heavily on the ballots still left to count in the city.

Expect the same this year, especially in the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz. The only reason to believe it won’t take as long is because less people voted by mail this year than in 2020.

A court case

Philadelphia officials decided to remove poll book reconciliation from its vote-counting process a week ago, but a Republican group quickly sued to keep it in place.

While a judge ruled two days ago that City Commissioners could remove the process and reimplementing could be too disruptive to overall vote counting, they did also slam the Commissioners for their decision.

When speaking on the last-minute decision to reimplement the process, Commissioner Seth Bluestein told the Philadelphia Inquirer that while the city won its court case against the Republican group, the way Judge Anne Marie Coyle wrote her opinion reduced the victory down to just a technicality.

“The opinion that was written was written in a way that we have no other choice but to go forward and reinstate reconciliation,” said Bluestein, the one Republican of Philly’s Election Commissioners. 

He was joined in voting to reinstate the reconciliation by Commissioner Lisa Deeley. Omar Sabir was the only to vote against the measure.

In 2020, a few dozen cases of double voting were caught during the reconciliation process, but no cases have occurred in any city election since.

What does it mean for 2022?

Before the last-minute decision, City Commissioners had hoped to complete their counts and have full results by Wednesday at the latest, but with reconciliation back, it will likely take a couple days.

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