Election 2022

Philly and Pa. could know most primary results by Wednesday morning, as experts predict quick turnaround

There are fewer mail ballots to count this time — and the tightest races are among Republicans, who tend to favor in-person voting.

Workers tally mail ballots inside the Pa. Convention Center on Election Day 2020

Workers tally mail ballots inside the Pa. Convention Center on Election Day 2020

Emma Lee / WHYY
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Philadelphians eager to know the results of the midterm primaries will probably get most of their answers by Wednesday morning, experts say.

The contested Democratic primaries for state legislative positions in Philly involve only segments of the city — and therefore, don’t require counting too many mail ballots. And for the statewide races, the closest contests are among Republicans, who are much less likely to vote by mail.

One exception may be the GOP Senate nomination, where multiple candidates told Politico they’re prepared for a recount.

But most of the races relevant to Philadelphia are likely to be called Tuesday night, election lawyer Adam Bonin predicts.

“The volume of mail-in votes isn’t nearly as high as it is in presidential years, so … we should be in good shape Tuesday night, especially on the Republican side, where there will be fewer mail-in ballots to count,” Bonin said.

About 10% of registered Philadelphia voters, a little more than 104k people, requested mail ballots for the May 2022 primary, according to state records. As of Monday, more than 65k of those had been returned.

As a point of comparison, the Nov. 2020 general election saw three-and-a-half times as many Philadelphians vote by mail, around 365k people.

Under state law, Bonin noted, mail ballot processing still can’t begin until the polls open Tuesday morning. How fast will that go?

There are 48k ballots in Philadelphia that can be “run through the process” on Election Day — but not all of them will be cleared to count right away, according to Nick Custodio, a spokesman for the city commissioners. Some might require extra review.

Some mail ballots came in after May 10, and are not marked as returned in the printed poll books, so election officials will have to do cross-checks to make sure there are no double votes. That process will take until Thursday evening or Friday morning, Custodio said.

Throughout Pennsylvania counties, 911k applications for mail-in and absentee ballots have been processed, and about 576k of those have been returned, according to Mark Walters, a spokesperson for the Pa. Dept. of State.

The Dept. of State is planning to hold press conferences at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday night to give updates on the election. The latter conference is designated as “if necessary” in the department’s announcement.

Republican mail voters could still end up making the difference

Only about 5k mail-ballot requesters in Philadelphia are Republicans, compared with about 93k Democrats.

Statewide, about 199k Republicans applied for mail ballots and roughly 125k of them had been returned by Monday. About 680k Democrats applied for mail ballots, and about 452k of those were received by Monday.

It’s difficult to tell exactly how close the statewide primaries will be, particularly on the Republican side.

In the governor’s race, Susquehanna Polling & Research released a poll Monday that showed Doug Mastriano in a clear lead (29%) after getting an endorsement from former President Trump, ahead of Bill McSwain (18%) and Lou Barletta (15%). An earlier poll by Franklin & Marshall College had Mastriano at 20%, McSwain at 12% and Barletta at 11%.

On the other side of the aisle, Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, is the only Democratic candidate on the ballot.

For the U.S. Senate, Susquehanna had Mehmet Oz (28%) and Kathy Barnette (27%) neck-and-neck as of Monday, with David McCormick coming in at just 11% and all other candidates in the single digits. The F&M poll showed Oz and McCormick at 18% and 16%, respectively, and Barnette at 12%.

The Democratic Senate primary isn’t nearly as close in polls. F&M had front-runner John Fetterman at 53% with Conor Lamb at 14%. Fetterman’s surprising stroke just days before the election is unlikely to have more than minimal impact, strategists told City & State.

Even with a smaller number of Republican mail ballots, if the Senate or gubernatorial races are as close as polls show, “it could be a few days until we know the outcome,” said Stephen Medvic, a government professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “In fact, depending on whether there are any lawsuits, it could be longer than that.”

Still, Medvic added, “I don’t think that’s likely and my guess is that, even for really close races, we’ll know by Wednesday morning.”

Want some more? Explore other Election 2022 stories.

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