HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania is unlikely to have results on election night, the state's top election official said last month, because of a law limiting when mail votes can be processed.
That means voters may again have to wait to learn who wins key races in the battleground state, where the vote count in 2020's presidential election lasted for days.
"We must again ask for patience," Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania's acting secretary of state, told reporters over Zoom.
"Official results will be available within a few days," she said, predicting that unofficial results also wouldn't be available on Nov. 8. "This delay does not mean anything nefarious is happening. It simply means that the process is working as it is designed to work in Pennsylvania and that election officials are doing their job to count every vote."
Chapman attributed the expected delay to the state's General Assembly deciding not to pass legislation allowing counties to begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day.
As it stands, processing cannot begin until 7 a.m. that day.
News organizations often declare a winner before an official count is issued, based on a detailed analysis of the partial results. But in the 2020 presidential race, it still took four days for ABC News to call Pennsylvania for Joe Biden, a reflection both of how thin the margins tend to be in the longtime purple state and the increased use of mail ballots.
FLAWED MAIL-IN BALLOTS
Some of Pennsylvania's largest counties were among those working Monday to help voters fix mail-in ballots that have fatal flaws such as incorrect dates or missing signatures on the envelopes used to send them in.
Elections officials in Philadelphia and Allegheny, which includes Pittsburgh, announced measures they were taking in response to state Supreme Court orders in recent days that said mail-in ballots may not be counted if they lack accurate handwritten dates on the exterior envelopes.
The Department of State said it was unclear just how many ballots are at issue across the state. The agency over the weekend asked counties to provide the numbers, broken down by political party. Officials said some counties were not letting voters fix their mistakes.
Ahead of Tuesday's midterms, more than a million mail-in and absentee ballots have already been returned in Pennsylvania, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to vote by mail. The numbers are large enough that they might matter in a close race, such as the contest between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz that could determine majority control of the U.S. Senate.
The Pennsylvania litigation was filed by Republican groups and is among legal efforts by both parties in multiple states to have courts sort out disputes over voting rules and procedures ahead of the midterm election.
A new federal lawsuit over the envelope dates was filed Monday in Pittsburgh federal court by the national congressional and senatorial Democratic campaign organizations, two Democratic voters and Fetterman's U.S. Senate campaign. They sued county boards of election across the state, arguing that throwing out ballots that lack proper envelope dates would violate a provision in the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Act that says people can't be kept from voting based on what the lawsuit calls "needless technical requirements."
A separate federal lawsuit filed Friday makes a similar argument.
Leigh Chapman, on Monday urged mail-in voters who think they may have made technical errors to contact their county elections offices. If the county won't let them fix the problem, they should go to their local polling place on Tuesday and request a provisional ballot, she said.
Philadelphia Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio said the court decision last week and the tide of ballots rolling in ahead of Election Day has made it difficult to issue direct notifications.
"So far we have only been able to put out a list on our website, but we are exploring whatever other options are available given the short time-period," Custodio said.
Dozens of voters seeking to fix their ballots showed up at City Hall over the weekend, and Custodio said more visited city offices Monday. Volunteers from several groups are contacting those voters to see if they need help getting to the elections office.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last Tuesday that mail-in votes do not count if they are "contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes," then supplemented that with a follow-up order on Saturday that specified the allowable date range for mail-in and absentee ballots.
Ballots without properly dated envelopes have been the topic of litigation since mail-in voting was greatly expanded in Pennsylvania under a state law passed in 2019.
Mail-in ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday, so at this point officials are urging people who have not done so to deliver them to elections offices or drop boxes by hand.
Voters who have not voted by mail ballot can vote in person at their polling place on Election Day. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 8.
Voters who applied for and received a mail ballot and then decide they want to vote at the polls must bring their mail ballot packet with them to be voided, including the unvoted mail ballot and the outer return envelope with the voter's declaration.
If a voter applied for a mail ballot but did not return it and no longer has the mail ballot and outer envelope, they may vote by provisional ballot at their polling place on Election Day. Their county board of elections will then verify that they did not vote by mail before counting their provisional ballot.
If a voter applied for a mail ballot but never received it, they should vote by provisional ballot at their polling place on Election Day. Their county board of elections will then verify that they did not vote by mail before counting their provisional ballot.
ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.