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  • Writer's pictureKeegan Gibson

Election Night in Pennsylvania -- Tips to Finding Early Election Returns

Watching elections returns was my job for years while I reported for PoliticsPA and before that when I worked on campaigns. What was once a job is now a hobby; I still spend election nights glued to the computer.

Unfortunately for political nerds, there’s no one-stop shop for the latest numbers once the polls close at 8 p.m. Waiting for the official Associated Press call takes time.

So what’s the best way to track the action tonight? Here’s what I have bookmarked, and will plan to hit refresh all night:

The Department of State website. The state site has gotten better in recent years but it still lags county-level info – and doesn’t include local races. Still, it’s the best place to watch the Superior Court primaries. Dems and GOP voters each have three candidates for two spots on the state Superior Court. But it hasn’t gotten much attention from wonks because, of PA’s three statewide courts, Superior has the least impact on public policy.

Philly Election Results. The City of Brotherly Love has dozens of contested races, including for Mayor. This site has been the go-to place to find returns for years, even before it became the official vehicle of the city commissioners’ results. Billy Penn has your day-of guide to the races.

Allegheny County. This is the prettiest returns website in the state. It lets you search by race and instantly view results by precinct map maps. The Incline has key races to watch.

Twitter. It’s indispensable on election night, when reporters and politics join forces to watch out for interesting trends, bellwether precincts and surprises. #PAPrimary is the consensus hashtag.

Other counties: It depends. Every county has its own system and web platform. Some are great, others seem deliberately designed to frustrate (cough, Delaware County, cough). The general steps to find results are:

  1. Find the county board of elections website. (Make sure it’s in Pennsylvania. I once spent 20 minutes looking at results from Montgomery County, Maryland).

  2. Search for the “results” page, and double check to make sure the date is current.

  3. The “Summary Report” has the total (so far) of votes by race. The precinct report has each race in each precinct and is MUCH longer.

  4. Refresh, refresh, refresh.

  5. Note: the results will be labeled “unofficial” until at least Friday, when counties make their official count. Typically provisional and absentee ballots don’t sway the outcome of a race outside 1 percent.

It took about 5 seconds to make this map of the 2017 Bellevue mayoral election on the Allegheny County website. Other counties: please be more like Allegheny County.

In addition to the above, tonight I’ll be watching a few key counties to see if there are any special election surprises. Centre County will need to have a Penn State surge to boost the Dem’s longshot hopes in the PA12 special (the spring semester is over, so that’s unlikely). I’ll also keep an eye on Butler, Franklin and Indiana counties. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star has a good roundup of the state legislative races tonight.


Keegan Gibson is a Special Projects Manager of Ceisler Media's Pittsburgh office.


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