Nearly half of Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail ballots had already been turned in before Tuesday night’s U.S. Senate debate, which was even considered a disaster by democrats, after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), still recovering from health complications, had a challenging time forming sentences that made any sense.
Fetterman fought to stay out of the debate and his campaign limited his appearances in public. When he finally agreed to debate, Democrats tried to hold the debate back until votes were already being sent in. Democrats tend to opt for this method, and the majority of their votes could have already been cast.
However, considering the fact that 82% the viewers believed that Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz won the debate, it's likely that a portion of those Democrats will choose a different candidate now.
The Wall Street Journal noted in its editorial on Tuesday that the outcome of the debate might not even be relevant, given the time and the vote-by-mail method:
Voters in Pennsylvania Tuesday night finally got a debate between their Senate candidates, Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz. Mr. Fetterman is still recovering from a stroke, and he relied on closed captions to understand the debate questions. Voters can decide if he allayed concerns about his health.
Remarkably, though, almost half of the mail ballots requested in Pennsylvania have already been cast and returned, according to the U.S. Elections Project. As of Tuesday, two weeks before what used to be quaintly called Election Day, officials had received 635,428 mail votes out of the 1,310,189 that voters originally requested. That’s 48%. Given the delay between a voter’s mailbox and the local elections office, the true figure is certainly higher.
Most people continue to vote on Election Day, but the data there aren’t exactly comforting. About five million people voted in Pennsylvania’s 2018 Senate race. Assuming this year’s final turnout ends up being similar, then roughly 10% of the vote could be already cast for Mr. Fetterman or Mr. Oz, before the public even has a chance to see them mix it up on TV.
Similar concerns have also been reported elsewhere, where first debates are scheduled after the beginning of early voting and voting-by-mail.