The Race for District 18

Allegheny County’s District 18 special election results are finally official

Weeks after the polls closed, Lamb v. Saccone results were certified.

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
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Update, 10:42 a.m.: As expected, Allegheny County certified the results of the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District this morning. That certification will be sent to the Department of State Tuesday, a county spokesperson said.

District 18 results have also been certified in Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, and once all counties have supplied their certifications to the Pennsylvania Department of State, the formal procedures to have Democrat Conor Lamb sworn-in as District 18’s latest — and in all likelihood, last — U.S. Rep. will begin.

Original article:

Twenty days since the polls closed in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Allegheny County is set to make its results official through certification of its vote tally at 10 this morning.

There are four counties with portions in District 18 — Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland. Once all four have certified their results and provided them to the Pennsylvania Department of State, the department will compile the returns and certify them to Gov. Tom Wolf, said Wanda Murren, a Department of State spokesperson.

Murren added by email, “The Governor then issues a certificate of election to the winning candidate and transmits the official returns to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

A timetable for this was not immediately available, partly because while vote totals were set to be certified in all but Allegheny County as of late last week, only Westmoreland County had provided its certified results to the Department of State as of Friday, Murren said. “I’ve heard that others might have certified, but we have not received them,” she explained.

Elections officials in Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties all previously said their results would be certified by Thursday, making Allegheny County the last of the four counties to take this step. Greene and Washington county offices were closed for Good Friday.

Votes were done being tallied in all four District 18 counties as of last week, and in some cases before then. But before being certified, those results had to sit for five days to allow for a challenge against them to be made. In the end, no such challenge was brought.

The final district-wide vote total had Democrat Conor Lamb with a 755 vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone, 114,102 to 113,347. Libertarian candidate Drew Miller earned 1,381 votes, nearly double the difference between Lamb and Saccone.

While largely a formality, the final certification of county vote totals — the step being taken in Allegheny County today — is also necessary to start proceedings to formally take Lamb from congressman-elect to congressman. It’s unclear when his swearing-in will take place. Congress is on recess until next week. Lamb’s campaign did not return a Friday email seeking comment.

Allegheny County, specifically the suburbs surrounding Pittsburgh, provided a significant boost for Lamb on Election Day, helping to carry him to victory in what has long been a reliably conservative district. (Lamb won Allegheny County with 58,874 votes to Saccone’s 43,398 and Miller’s 526.)

When the race remained “too close to call” in the days after the polls closed, Allegheny County became a focus of Republican finger-pointing, with allegations of voting irregularities and procedural violations being raised with election authorities in Harrisburg. Despite this saber rattling, the mandatory five-day waiting period that needs to elapse before results can be certified passed without a formal challenge. There were challenges made against some provisional ballots in Allegheny County, but those challenges were ultimately dropped.

The same process was followed in all four District 18 counties. In Allegheny, votes were finally tallied as of Wednesday and, because no challenges were lodged, became official today. Official results are then “certified” by the county’s return board.

Allegheny County’s totals are scheduled to be certified by the return board at 10 a.m. in a conference room on the first floor of the Allegheny County Courthouse.

Meanwhile, Lamb is facing a brief tenure as U.S. Rep. for the 18th Congressional District. This, as a statewide redistricting fight promises to replace Pennsylvania’s existing congressional map — and with it Pennsylvania’s existing congressional districts — in time for the May primary. The 18th District in its current iteration will cease to exist.

Both Lamb and Saccone will run in the May primary in a new district — Lamb in the new 17th and Saccone in the new 14th. Both districts will be in southwestern Pennsylvania and both will have portions that overlap with portions of the current 18th district.

In the meantime, Lamb will begin to serve out the remainder of former District 18 U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s most recent term. Murphy resigned the seat amid scandal last year, setting up the March 13 special election to replace him.