Center County is preparing for the May primary election vote recount in Pennsylvania that begins Wednesday, but it’s unclear how a U.S. Senate candidate’s request for a manual recount will affect plans.
Beth Lechman, chief electoral officer for Center County, said at Tuesday’s meeting of commissioners that the state-mandated vote recount in the too-close Republican primary between David McCormick and Dr. Mehmet Oz will begin at 9 morning hours Wednesday in the Willowbank building. . She expected it to be finished by the end of the day.
But late Tuesday afternoon, McCormick’s campaign announced that it request a manual recount in some constituencies in several counties, including the Center, according to reports.
At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Center County Commissioner Michael Pipe said he was unsure what impact this would have on Wednesday’s scheduled recount.
“(This) continues to be an evolving situation,” Pipe wrote in a text message.
The Pennsylvania State Department, which oversees the elections, has not publicly commented on the matter.
Center County has prepared for the “mandatory statewide recount” ordered by Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman. If the difference between two of the top candidates for statewide office is 0.5 percent of the vote or less, Pennsylvania election law requires a automatic recount.
“Mehmet C. Oz and David H. McCormick, first and second respectively, have a vote total within the half percent margin that triggers a mandatory recount under state law,” Chapman wrote. in a press release.
The counties could have started their recount as early as May 27 but no later than June 1; the recount must be completed by noon June 7 and counties must submit recount results to the State Department by noon June 8, the statement said.
Lechman said some members of the public who have already helped at the mail-in voting center will be there Wednesday and others will be appointed to help with the verification process at the Willowbank Building.
Members of the elections office, additional county employees and some outsiders will be appointed to a 10-person audit committee. There will be additional volunteers sworn in Wednesday morning, Lechman said, but those volunteers will be the ones doing the checking.
“They will verify the results from the initial count through the recount and report any errors or discrepancies,” Lechman said.
The recount will be conducted on two of the DS450s — a ballot scanner and tabulator — that the county owns and on a DS850 that the county leases.
“For a recount, you have to use different equipment to count those ballots on which they were originally counted. So our mail-in ballots were originally counted on our DS450s, so they will be counted on the DS850,” Lechman said.
The undated mail-in ballots were counted and are included in tallies submitted to the State Department, she said. There were 61 undated ballots and of those, 58 were counted, she said. Those ballots remain separate, Center County Commissioner Steve Dershem said.
Lechman said she expects the recount to be completed by the end of the day Wednesday. There are fewer ballots to count in this election than there were in the November election, which ended in about a day and a half. Pipe said the county plans to certify the official recount results on Thursday.
DOS estimated that the cost of the recount will exceed $1 million in public funds. Counties will be reimbursed for the cost of the recount.