Lancaster County elections officials are wrong to say late mail-in ballots can't be counted now, then removed later if a legal challenge to them is sustained, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar said Wednesday.
"It is absolutely feasible," Boockvar said.
Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D'Agostino, who chairs the Board of Elections, said Tuesday the county would hold off for the time being on counting mail-in ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Those ballots are the subject of a possible U.S. Supreme Court review. The state Supreme Court says ballots received up to three days after Election Day may be counted if they are otherwise valid. The state Republican Party has challenged that ruling, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has suggested it may be unconstitutional.
D'Agostino and commissioners Chairman Josh Parsons say it is "logistically impossible" for Lancaster County to pull disputed ballots from the total once they've been canvassed and processed. Boockvar on Tuesday said that assertion is "not accurate."
It can be done by using different machines or memory sticks, she said, calling it "not even challenging." The state has instructed counties accordingly and advised them to consult directly with vendors, she said.
In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, Parsons said the county is following the law and is not obliged to follow the state's guidance.
Boockvar's Department of State "strangely" changed its guidance "at the last minute," Parsons wrote. "That 'guidance' is not the law and the Board of Elections has legal authority on how to proceed in accordance with the law and court orders."
The third county commissioner, Craig Lehman, has called for following the state's guidance.
'The system is working'
Gov. Tom Wolf, meanwhile, called on Pennsylvanians once again to remain patient while votes are tabulated.
It's normal that an election with so many mail-in votes is taking longer to yield a result than did earlier elections dominated by in-person voting.
"The delay we're seeing is a sign that the system is working."
Pennsylvania is a tipping point state, crucial to both President Donald Trump's hopes of victory and those of his opponent, Joe Biden.
Trump on Wednesday claimed victory, made baseless claims of fraud and said he would challenge election results in the U.S. Supreme Court, where Amy Coney Barrett's recent installation gives the court's conservative wing a 6-3 majority.
Wolf said Pennsylvania would vigorously fight any and all interference in the vote count.
"Make no mistake. Our democracy is being tested in this election. This is a stress test of the ideals on which this country was founded," the governor said.