Election 2018

How a recount in Pa. Congressional District 18 would work — if it happens

Like everything else in this election, it could be a while.

Members of the Elections Division staff and watchers participate in the December 2016 recanvass of the 2016 presidential election.

Members of the Elections Division staff and watchers participate in the December 2016 recanvass of the 2016 presidential election.

Sarah Anne Hughes / The Incline
MJ Slaby

By late afternoon Wednesday, the special election in the 18th Congressional District remained too close to call.

Democrats declared victory for candidate Conor Lamb, but his Republican challenger Rick Saccone refuses concede. Per the Pa. Department of State, Lamb earned 49.8 percent of the vote to Saccone’s 49.6 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting. But there are still absentee ballots and provisional totals to be confirmed in some of the four counties — Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland — in District 18.

Because it’s not a statewide race, there’s no automatic recount for a race this close. It’s unclear if Saccone supporters will ask for a recount.

However “Republicans are investigating a number of purported Election Day irregularities” such as voting machine problems, voters told to go to the wrong polling place and GOP attorneys not being able to oversee the counting of Allegheny County absentee ballots, the Post-Gazette reported. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Allegheny County Elections Division responded to some of those claims and hadn’t received notice of legal action, per spokesperson Amie Downs.

So what would it take for a recount? Time, first of all. Here are the steps, per Pa. Department of State Spokeswoman Wanda Murren:

  1. A recount requires a petition from three voters in a precinct. Districtwide, there are 593 precincts between four counties — Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland. That means 1,779 people would have to sign petitions.
  2. The voters have two options for where to file their petitions:
    • — For a recount in the precinct, voters would file with the county elections board. The deadline to do that is “before the canvass and computation is complete, which would usually be the eighth day after the election,” Murren said in an email to The Incline.
    • — For a district-wide recount, voters would file with the county common pleas court. The deadline for that is five days after computation is complete, so likely 13 days from the election.
  3. Once the petitions are filed, here’s what’s next per Murren: “The county elections board would convene and recanvass the tallies of each machine, as well as absentee and provisional ballots. They likely would call in the precinct election officials to testify to each bit of documentation.”