Pennsylvania judge race with narrow margin will get recount
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The results of a tight race for a seat on the statewide Commonwealth Court will be recounted because two candidates finished within a half-percentage point of each other in last week’s election, the Pennsylvania Department of State announced Wednesday.
The race pits Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Lori Dumas, the Democrat, against former Pennsylvania Senate Republican aide Drew Crompton, who was appointed last year to fill a Commonwealth Court vacancy until a replacement could be elected. Commonwealth Court handles cases involving state government and local governments.
Two seats on Commonwealth Court were on the ballot, both held most recently by Republicans. The lead vote-getter last week, McKean County Republican lawyer Stacy Wallace, is deemed to have secured one of them, the department said.
For the second seat, unofficial returns have Dumas leading Crompton by nearly 17,000 votes, well within the margin for a government-paid recount. Those unofficial returns show Dumas with 1.29 million votes, or 25.36%, and Crompton with 1.27 million votes, or 25.03%.
The Department of State estimates a recount, which counties have two weeks to perform, will cost about $1.3 million. Since automatic recounts were authorized in 2004, the law has been triggered five times, with two recounts carried out.
Crompton said he decided not to waive the recount — his deadline to make that decision was noon Wednesday —- because “the first count was not smooth across the commonwealth.”
He noted his race would be the first mandatory recount since mail-in voting was greatly expanded in Pennsylvania two years ago.
“My understanding is Chester County, for example, now has a major issue with mail-ins and other counties still have not even completed their first counts,” Crompton said in a text exchange.
The Department of State said the margin between Crompton and Dumas as of Wednesday afternoon was 16,804, with counties reporting they still had to count about 13,500 ballots. The department said the uncounted ballots were primarily provisional ballots that had not been ruled on, as well as absentee and mail ballots that could not have been tabulated previously, such as ballots from military and overseas civilian voters and ballots awaiting verified ID.
As for Chester County, the commissioners say that on Nov. 4, two days after Election Day, their county elections workers realized more votes were received than had been counted. They determined it was a software problem and notified their machine vendor as well as the two major parties.
As a result, county elections workers rescanned all mail-in and absentee ballots in question, with representatives of both parties there to observe.
Additionally, Chester County discovered on Friday that mail-in ballots from a drop box at the Downingtown Library had not been tallied. They were counted on Monday.
Chester County spokeswoman Becky Brain said by late Wednesday all of their votes had been counted.
“We do have our results now uploaded, and those results obviously remain unofficial until certified by the Board of Election,” Brain said.
Lisa Schaefer with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, whose members run elections in each county, said that although there were ballot printing issues that had to be addressed, she was unaware of any significant voting or tabulation problems.
Almost 2.8 million ballots were cast in the election, or about 31% of Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million registered voters.