Western Pennsylvania’s special election: Here’s what happens next |

Western Pennsylvania’s special election: Here’s what happens next

Tom Fontaine
Gene J. Puskar/AP
Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate in the 18th Congressional District special election celebrates with his supporters at his election night party at SouthPointe early Wednesday, March 14, 2018.

Mt. Lebanon Democrat Conor Lamb declared victory in Western Pennsylvania's special election for the 18th Congressional District five hours after polls closed Tuesday night.

The outcome will remain unofficial for weeks.

Lamb unofficially leads Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone by 627 votes — a margin of 0.27 percentage points.

Here's what happens next:

• Elections officials in the congressional district's Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties will formally begin reviewing results Friday.

Westmoreland County Elections Director Beth Lechman said her department will see if the number of voters who signed up at their respective polling places matches the number of votes cast on each precinct's voting machines. If there's a discrepancy, the department will investigate.

• Elections officials also will count provisional and military ballots starting Friday. Lechman said Wednesday that the county has about 20 provisional ballots and 23 military ballots to count. Nearly 72,000 people voted in Westmoreland on Tuesday — about a third of all votes cast in the congressional district.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the county has to examine 128 provisional ballots and 99 military ballots. More than 100,000 people voted in Allegheny.

Each candidate can observe or appoint someone to be on hand for the inspection of provisional ballots, Downs said. Both are entitled to challenge provisional ballots they think are invalid.

• Once that's done, officials will pre-certify the results. That will start a five-day period in which parties can file court challenges related to the election, Washington County Elections Assistant Director Melanie Ostrander said. She said at least three voters in a particular precinct have to file a petition with the county's court within that period if they want to challenge the results or ask for a recount. Candidates can also turn to county courts to request recounts.

Downs said petitioners in the precincts are required to put up $50 in cash or a $100 bond to defray the cost of challenges.

• Pennsylvania Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said there is no provision in state elections law that triggers an automatic recount for congressional races. There is for statewide races when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent. Even in those cases, Murren said, “The votes change almost not at all. Candidates might gain a few here, lose a few there. There's usually very little change in the (unofficial) total.”

• Final results can be certified by each county's Board of Elections when the five-day period passes without any challenges or all challenges are resolved. Downs said Allegheny County's election board is scheduled to meet April 2 to certify its results.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review assistant news editor.

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