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Philadelphia Voters Anxiously Wait For Ballot Counting To End

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Starting to look like the presidential election may come down to Philadelphia. Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, as we just heard. And people living in the city are feeling the pressure. For two days, people have been holding raucous rallies outside a convention center in Center City. Inside, workers are feverishly counting mail-in ballots that could decide the next president of the United States. WHYY's Katie Meyer reports that some people support the president and have come with unsubstantiated claims of fraud. Many others say they just want all the votes counted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS RABB: This is our moment, but it's just a moment. We got to continue.

KATIE MEYER, BYLINE: Since Election Day, the street outside the Philly Convention Center has sounded a lot like this. The speaker there is Chris Rabb, a state rep from Philadelphia. He and a lot of others have come to the convention center to cheer on the mail ballot count. There's been kind of a circus atmosphere - people in costumes, organizers showing up with food, DJs blasting music and people like Renee Wilson. She's a member of the union Unite Here, which worked long hours doorknocking to turn people out for Biden.

RENEE WILSON: Every voter, every vote counts. We're making sure folks know that every vote counts and every vote matters. Yes, that's what put me out here today.

MEYER: Ballots still need to be counted and are expected to skew heavily in Biden's favor since more Democrats voted by mail. That would only grow Biden's lead in this state with 20 electoral votes. That's what the Trump supporters here, like Hemu Khan, are fixated on.

HEMU KHAN: Because we knew that it's going to be a lot of massive voter fraud by mail-in.

MEYER: There has been no credible evidence of fraud in Pennsylvania, but the Trump campaign and state Republicans have filed a lot of lawsuits. The main one contests a three-day extension the state Supreme Court gave counties to accept mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. Jake Corman, GOP leader of the state Senate, says he thinks there's been inconsistent guidance given to counties, for instance.

JAKE CORMAN: This is what you get. Now, you have a lot of conspiracies out there. Again, I am not saying that any of them are true. I have no knowledge that the results may be what the results are.

MEYER: Democrats have stood by the process. Meanwhile, President Trump has been sending out near-constant tweets with claims of rampant voter fraud without evidence, and they may be inspiring supporters to extreme ends. Thursday night, police in Philly arrested two armed men outside the ballot counting center and impounded a Hummer decorated with distinctive decals promoting the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon. The men linked to that car and an alleged threat on the counting center have openly supported the president.

For NPR News, I'm Katie Meyer in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Katie Meyer is WITF’s Capitol bureau chief, and she covers all things state politics for public radio stations throughout Pennsylvania. Katie came to Harrisburg by way of New York City, where she worked at Fordham University’s public radio station, WFUV, as an anchor, general assignment reporter, and co-host of an original podcast. A 2016 graduate of Fordham, she won several awards for her work at WFUV, including four 2016 Gracies. Katie is a native New Yorker, though she originally hails from Troy, a little farther up the Hudson River. She can attest that the bagels are still pretty good there.