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Pennsylvania Is A Key State For Trump And Biden Campaigns

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today, millions more Americans will exercise their most fundamental right and choose who they want to lead this country. And I say millions more because nearly 100 million Americans have already cast their ballots, shattering records for early and mail-in voting. The high turnout makes this an historic election, so does the fact that this is all happening during the worst pandemic in a century. Throughout this morning, we're talking with local member station reporters who are bringing us the latest from polling stations across this country in the states that are likely to determine the outcome of this election.

Pennsylvania is one of those states, and that is where we find Avi Wolfman-Arent from WHYY in Philadelphia. Avi, thanks for being here. I understand you're outside - you're at a polling place this morning, right? What do you see?

AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT, BYLINE: I am indeed. I am in Delaware County, a county just outside Philadelphia, a suburban stronghold that Joe Biden hopes to capture. And a line has just started to form outside the polling place. We're still about an hour away from the polls opening. It's windy. It's cold, but there is enthusiasm.

MARTIN: Wow. But people are lining up even an hour beforehand, which says something.

WOLFMAN-ARENT: Yeah, just - (laughter) exactly - just a few.

MARTIN: Just a few intrepid souls...

WOLFMAN-ARENT: Exactly, exactly.

MARTIN: ...But they're there.

WOLFMAN-ARENT: But it's starting to get going.

MARTIN: So in 2016, I mean, Pennsylvania surprised a whole lot of people by swinging red, going for President Trump. The election there is close again. What are the regions to watch?

WOLFMAN-ARENT: Well, I'll give you a few. Here in the southeastern part of the state where I am, that is where Joe Biden needs to run up the score. Philadelphia and its suburbs. In the central and western parts of the state, especially the rural parts, that's Trump country. That's where he's looking for a big turnout on Election Day. And then there's a couple of bellwethers. One is the northeastern part of the state - Scranton area, where Joe Biden is from - and then the far northwest. Erie County has often been sort of a signal for which way the state is going to go. So people will be keeping a close, close eye on Erie.

MARTIN: President Trump has targeted Pennsylvania. He and his campaign have made baseless claims about voter fraud in Philadelphia in particular. What are election officials in the state doing to reassure voters about the process?

WOLFMAN-ARENT: Well, there's been a lot of reassuring talk from the mayor and the - Philadelphia's district attorney, Larry Krasner. Krasner, also recently went on CNN and said some sort of - had some tough talk for President Trump, saying if he tried something, Krasner was going to have something ready for him. Kind of unclear - right? - but basically just saying, look; we've got law enforcement standing by. We're ready to snuff out any intimidation if we see it. And, you know, the main thing they've been doing is just showing people how the process works, you know, behind-the-scenes footage of voting machines and things like that, just to try to reassure them that, hey, everything's OK.

MARTIN: Are there issues voters should be concerned about when it comes to voting, their ballots counting?

WOLFMAN-ARENT: Yeah. I think from a voter perspective, there's definitely concern just about confusion because Pennsylvania is not a state with a tradition of sort of no-excuse mail-in voting. So for a lot of people, this is the first time they're trying to vote early or by mail. And for folks who requested ballots but decided instead to come to the polls on Election Day, there could be some sort of technical glitches in terms of what they do. And so I think there could be some confusion among voters who show up today, and hopefully that'll get sorted out at the polls.

MARTIN: What about the ability to count all of these ballots? We've talked about the historic turnout. Is Pennsylvania ready for this?

WOLFMAN-ARENT: They hope so. Pennsylvania cannot, by law, start counting those mail-in ballots until today. So it's going to take a few days for the results to trickle in. And hopefully, the counties can handle the flow of mail-in ballots.

MARTIN: Avi Wolfman-Arent from WHYY in Philadelphia. Thank you so much. Stay warm out there.

WOLFMAN-ARENT: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.