BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. — One of the most critical counties in determining the next President of the United States sits quietly in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Beaver County voted overwhelmingly for then candidate Donald Trump in 2016, winning by 19 percentage points.
Despite the president’s margin of victory, the county is gaining national attention for the role voters could play in 2020.
NBC News included Beaver in its County by County Project, which focuses on five counties nationwide that could be critical in determining who becomes the next president.
Meet the Press Moderator Chuck Todd said Trump’s sizable win in 2016 played a role in Beaver County’s selection.
“It was one of the explanations of why Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania,” Todd said.
The last time Beaver County voted for a Democratic presidential nominee was John Kerry in 2004.
Since then, Republicans have gained momentum culminating in Trump’s overwhelming victory four years ago.
Now, the question is if Democratic nominee Joe Biden can connect with voters and cut into President Donald Trump’s support.
“He doesn’t have to carry Beaver County, but he can’t lose it by 20 points either,” Todd said. “So far, polls seem to indicate he’s doing better with older white voters and he’s doing better with rank and file union members than Hilary Clinton did.”
The unfamiliar spotlight is also creating added pressure on Beaver County leaders who are preparing for an election week, not night.
During June’s primary, it took county officials three days to count around 18,000 mail-in absentee ballots.
Beaver County Commissioner Jack Manning points to statewide restrictions in place that don’t allow ballots to be processed until 7 a.m. on Election Day.
“It’s a very manual process and it’s just time consuming to prepare those (ballots) to be scanned,” he said.
More than 30,000 mail-in ballots are expected to be returned by Election Day.
The drawn-out process doesn’t appear to be discouraging voters from making their voices heard.
“I hope everyone comes out and votes. I know I’m going to,” said voter Anna Marie Fallagan.
While so much attention is being paid to November 3, Manning is focused on what happens next.
He knows how emotional and draining the election has been on his community.
But he’s confident the emotional scars will heal, regardless of the outcome.
“I hope that the majority of people, the plurality of people in the middle, really don’t care that much about the political affiliations but instead what’s best for Beaver County.”
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