Takeaways: Quick-glance winners & losers from Election Day in Pa.
Votes are still being counted, and there's still plenty to unpack from critical midterms in Pennsylvania.
Still, Election Day brought at least some clarity to the political picture in the commonwealth. Here are some key takeaways from preliminary voting results as recorded thus far with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Winning: The lawyers
Litigation has already been a prominent feature of the midterm election in Pennsylvania, and the court battles around voting are likely to heat up even further in the days to come.
"This is utter chaos," John Jones III, former judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, told reporters last week, speaking of the legal landscape heading into Election Day.
One of the clashes has been over whether elections officials should count undated or incorrectly-dated mail-in ballots, a question that remained hanging on Tuesday.
Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, who was appointed by Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, has argued that these dates are insignificant and that excluding ballots on these grounds would be an act of voter disenfranchisement. Republicans, however, contend that Pennsylvania law clearly requires the dates.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with GOP plaintiffs, ordering elections officials to refrain from counting these ballots and instead to set them aside and "preserve" them.
Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman and the ACLU have since filed federal lawsuits to include these undated ballots in the final tally.
Republicans also went to court to force Philadelphia officials to reinstate a time-consuming process used to catch double voters, or people who have cast ballots by mail and in person, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
And Dan Mallinson, a political science professor at Penn State Harrisburg, said he expects candidates will pursue more litigation in the days to come. The outcome of these suits could impact close races, particularly in the General Assembly.
"I'm afraid that this is going to be just the norm now," he said.
Winning: Big-ticket Dems
Since breezing through his uncontested primary, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro was the presumptive favorite to replace Gov. Tom Wolf.
National pundits moved projections in his race against Republican nominee Doug Mastriano from a toss-up to a shade of blue. Shapiro's team demonstrated why this was a wise prediction: They built coalitions with Republicans, out-raised Mastriano many times over and hashed out centrist positions, such as support for taxpayer dollars toward private tuition for students in low-performing school districts.
As result, a called victory was earned long before midnight.
It was also a good night (rather, early morning) for Fetterman. He was announced as the winner of the U.S. Senate race against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday.
His lead at the time was 77,624, which came out to roughly 1 percentage point.
Winning: The pollsters
Pollsters have been, perhaps fairly, criticized for missing the mark in recent election cycles. But their predictions for the governor and U.S. Senate races for the 2022 midterms in Pennsylvania are turning out to be pretty accurate.
FiveThirtyEight, a national polling aggregate site, estimated that Shapiro beat Mastriano by approximately 12 percentage points, which seems close to where the final numbers will land.
The U.S. Senate contest between Fetterman and Oz was also nicely forecasted. It was labeled as a likely 1-point race, and though final prognostication gave the edge to Oz, this is toss-up is ending up close to the mark.
Losing: Luzerne County voters
Election Day did not go smoothly in Luzerne County, where a number of polling places were scrambling to deal with paper shortages.
Tuesday afternoon, Council member Tim McGinley said about a fifth of the county's polling places were running out of the paper used in voting machines to print completed ballots. A judge ordered the county to keep its voting sites open until 10 p.m. in response to the kerfuffle, which is two hours later than the rest of the commonwealth.
McGinley, who said he started hearing about the problem at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, said he doesn't know why the shortage occurred and isn't sure if anyone had been unable to cast ballots as a result. He said polling places without paper were instructed to let people vote provisionally if they couldn't use the machines.
Officials were working through the afternoon to restock the polling places, but McGinley said it was taking "a while" to reach some sites in the county, one of Pennsylvania's largest by land mass.
"I am frustrated and disappointed," said McGinley, who wants to discuss the problem during a Wednesday night council work session. "Because the goal is to have as many people get out and vote as possible."
His colleague, Council member Brian Thornton, is hoping to take that one step further, saying he wants to launch a full-fledged investigation into what he calls "an ugly black eye on Luzerne County."
Losing: The impatient
Voters who were looking for immediate results in Pennsylvania’s critical U.S. Senate race were bound for disappointment.
By the time midnight rolled around, the contest between Fetterman and Oz was still too close to call, with the candidates separated by less than one percentage point. The standings tracked with recent polls, many of which showed the two candidates locked in a statistical tie.
Though Fetterman was ultimately named winner in the early-morning hours Wednesday, other calls are too close to make.
Control of the Pennsylvania House in particular is undetermined because of close races and questions about qualifying ballots. A clearer picture of the General Assembly in Harrisburg may not be possible for another day or two, at minimum.
Bruce Siwy and Bethany Rodgers are reporters for the USA TODAY Network's Pennsylvania state capital bureau. They can be reached, respectively, at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.