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Biden, Trump campaign in Pennsylvania; mail ballots roll in

Supporters of President Donald Trump wait in line prior to a campaign rally at the Wilkes Barre/Scranton International Airport, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Wilkes Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

By MARC LEVY Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are stumping in Pennsylvania on Monday, the last day before Election Day, with counties reporting that they have yet to receive almost 700,000 mail-in and absentee ballots in the premier presidential battleground state.

Mail-in and absentee ballots are the subject of a Republican Party lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving doubt around the ultimate deadline for counties to receive them.

With concern around Postal Service delays and its delivery times as coronavirus infections spread, Pennsylvania state officials are urging votes to hand in their mail-in ballots and not to put them in the mail.

“Please do not put ballots in the mail, hand deliver your mail ballot to your county election office, satellite election office or other designated drop box or drop-off location,” Pennsylvania’s top election official, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, said during an online news conference Monday. “Do it today. Do not wait.”

The day before the election, nearly 700,000 ballots have yet to be reported returned. All told, voters in Pennsylvania requested nearly 3.1 million mail-in or absent ballots, or more than 10 times the amount received in 2016’s election. They had returned slightly over 2.4 million ballots as of Monday morning, according to state data.

The majority of mail-in ballots are being cast by Democrats, according to state data. Democrats requested more than 1.9 million ballots by mail, and had returned 1.6 million, according to state data. That means Democrats had yet to return more than 300,000 ballots, according to the latest state data.

Trump was expected to headline an early afternoon rally in Scranton, in northeastern Pennsylvania, Biden’s birthplace and an area of the state where Trump performed well in 2016.

Biden was in western Pennsylvania for three events: kicking off a canvass in Beaver County with labor unions and attending one drive-in rally in Pittsburgh with African American community leaders and another in the evening with Lady Gaga in the city.

Vice President Mike Pence and Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, are also in Pennsylvania on Monday.

The deadline to hand in ballots is when polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Ballots that arrive in the mail as late as 5 p.m. Friday are to be counted under a state court order.

However, that deadline for mailed ballots is in doubt, since the state Republican Party is challenging that order before the U.S. Supreme Court. It is asking the court to reset the deadline to the one in state law, which is 8 p.m. Tuesday, when polls close, and it is not clear if, or when, the U.S. Supreme Court may take up the case.

Late-arriving ballots could take on enormous importance if Pennsylvania turns out to be the crucial state in the election and they are potentially decisive.