With all eyes on the county-level Pennsylvania map as more votes are tallied in the presidential battleground, some lawmakers who spent time getting out the vote in the commonwealth are paying especially close attention.
Given that Maryland is a solidly blue state where Democratic presidential nominees have won every year since 1992, some Maryland lawmakers decided to focus their get-out-the-vote energy on nearby swing states, Pennsylvania in particular.
Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery) said she canvassed in York, Pa., five times in the last month, including on Election Day, and reached around 100 people. Although most people she met told her they were voting for Democrat Joe Biden and that they had a voting plan, Charkoudian also talked with dozens who were confused by the unusual voting process for this election, which worried her.
“It’s not over yet, but I feel a little nervous, but mostly because of my on-the-ground work,” Charkoudian said. “Just hearing the level of confusion, hearing some of the voter suppression efforts, combined with what the early numbers look like from Pennsylvania has me really worried about whose votes are not getting counted or who didn’t get to vote because they were confused.”
Charkoudian said Democratic Party officials in York County told her that an official-looking letter was sent to some people telling them that their polling location had changed, apparently as an attempt to confuse voters and thwart voting. She spoke with more than one person who was misinformed that their polling location had changed to the Salvation Army when it had not.
Charkoudian said another person told her that she planned to vote early because of an upcoming surgery, but Charkoudian reminded her that early in-person voting in Pennsylvania had already ended. They began planning for who could help her get to the polls on Tuesday after the surgery, but this could have easily been another case of an uncast or uncounted vote, Charkoudian said.
Another needed help figuring out how to vote in-person after she requested a mail-in ballot.
“You just wonder about all the people we didn’t get to touch, because they are working two jobs, because they didn’t pick up phone or open the door – all of those folks we don’t know if they tried to vote and somehow couldn’t because of all these changes.” Charkoudian said. “That really concerns me.”
Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Carroll and Frederick) also spent Monday in York door-knocking and phone banking. Around 80% of the 50 people he spoke to were voting on Election Day and many were “very excited and animated” to vote for President Trump.
Unlike in Maryland, where the presidential race wasn’t expected to be competitive, Pennsylvania was clearly a battleground state, Hough said. Just driving around, he heard endless campaign ads on the radio and saw people still pulling campaign mail out of their mail boxes.
“In Maryland, everything is so gerrymandered,” Hough said in an interview. With minimal radio and television advertisements, it was as if an election was not even going on in Maryland, he said. “The only thing that’s competitive is the school board race.”
Even as more mail-in votes are being counted, Hough said he thinks Trump will ultimately win Pennsylvania.
Some other state lawmakers expressed optimism for Biden in the swing state.
Del. Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery) canvassed in North Wales, Pa., the day before Election Day, and said he saw an overwhelming number of Biden supporters. While working a phone bank in suburban Pittsburgh and in Allegheny County, he said he noticed the same thing.
“I am confident that Biden will win Pennsylvania,” Solomon said. “I think it’s going to be close, but my experience was there was enough enthusiasm and new voters who were going to give Joe Biden a chance. I think ultimately he’ll win in the end.”
He is also optimistic because the mail-in ballot count continues in Pennsylvania where, unlike Maryland, election officials were not allowed to begin counting those votes before Election Day. Pennsylvania’s Republican-dominated legislature did not change state laws to accommodate the large number of mail-in ballots expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of 3 p.m. on Thursday, 77% of mail-in votes in Pennsylvania were for Biden. Although Pennsylvania may seem red now, it could turn blue as more mail-in votes are counted, Solomon said.
Maryland is known for exporting many volunteers during presidential election years. This year, the Maryland Democratic Party has dispatched 1,000 volunteers and made more than 250,000 calls to voters in swing states, mostly in Pennsylvania, said Yvette Lewis, Maryland Democratic Party chairperson.
“We’re confident that Joe Biden will win the state ― and the election,” she said. The COVID-19 pandemic led Democrats to rely mostly on phone banking and text banking in 2020, but canvassing in-person began last month, she said.
The Maryland Republican Party did not respond for comment.
State Leaders on Both Sides are Nervous for Results in Pennsylvania
Sen. J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore and Harford) was in Hopewell Township in Pennsylvania on Election Day, talking to voters who were waiting in a 2-hour line at the polls. Most people he talked with were enthusiastic to vote for President Trump, but he did have conversations with around five undecided voters who he said he was able to sway towards voting for Trump.
“Multiple that by 100 precincts and that could be the outcome of the election,” he said.
One person came to the polls, planning on voting for Biden, but after a conversation with him, he ended up voting for one of the third party candidates, Jennings said.
Although he liked how the results looked on Election night, “we’ve got a major hill to climb,” Jennings said. “If he can maintain Pennsylvania, he still has to turn Arizona. I’m hopeful, but I’m also a realist and unfortunately, it’s not looking good.”
Del. Sara Love (D-Montgomery) canvassed once in Harrisburg and three times in York. Although she met with many who said they were voting for Biden, she also met some who were not interested in voting at all.
Love, who won her delegate seat by just 12 votes, emphasized how one vote can matter.
“Who you choose matters,” Love said she told them, “whether it’s for where you want to go to college or if you just want a world for your kids to grow up in that’s kind and decent and doesn’t lie and spew hatred.”
Love said she was “saddened” by the election results so far.
“I am surprised…I had gotten the sense that Democrats were going to do better,” she said. “I understand that mail in ballots haven’t been counted yet and we all knew that [Tuesday] was going to be pretty much a red day, but I had thought we would see a stronger number for the Democrats in Pennsylvania.”