Amidst public concerns of electoral irregularities in Pennsylvania, a recount will decide the outcome of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court contest between Republican Drew Crompton and Democrat Lori A. Dumas.
Based on unofficial returns published by the Pennsylvania Department of State, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Dumas now leads Superior Court Judge Crompton by 16,804 votes out of more than 2.5 million votes cast for either of the two. That’s a margin of about .33 percent, which is within the 0.5 percent difference that prompts a recount under Pennsylvania’s Act 97 of 2004.
On November 2, Crompton and Dumas competed in a four-way contest for two seats on the Commonwealth Court. Stacy Marie Wallace (R) was a decisive winner with 1,352,365 votes. David Lee Spurgeon (D) was decisively defeated, winning only 1,168,314 votes.
The commonwealth estimates the cost of the recount will amount to approximately $1.3 million.
Since Act 97 was enacted, vote margins have called for recounts in five elections. In three of those elections, the trailing candidate waived his right to have the votes recounted. In the two recounts that proceeded—a nine-way contest for four Superior Court seats in 2009 and a 2011 Democratic primary for a Commonwealth Court seat—affirmed the original results.
Crompton had the option to waive his right to a recount until noon Thursday but did not. Republicans otherwise swept statewide judicial contests in the Keystone State, with Kevin Brobson defeating Democratic opponent Maria McLaughlin for a Supreme Court seat and Megan Sullivan beating Democrat Timika Lane for a Superior Court spot.
The closeness of the margin between Crompton and Dumas’s vote totals comes at a time when concerns about the reliability of Pennsylvania vote counts have come to light, particularly in the state’s southeast.
In Montgomery County, dozens of local elections were not resolved until last weekend because of difficulties the county’s election board had counting thousands of incorrectly printed mail-in ballots. The mail-in ballots overwhelmingly benefited Democrats in the liberal-leaning county.
The problems stemmed from the election board having initially mailed ballots with printing on only one side to about 16,000 voters. Those incomplete ballots excluded several judicial-retention questions that would have appeared on the other side.
Voters who received those defective ballots were sent replacements and instructions to destroy the ballots they received earlier, but many voters nonetheless reportedly returned one-sided ballots to the county. If the election board determined that such a voter did not also vote in person on November 2, it counted that voter’s one-sided mail-in ballot.
And in Chester County, Michelle Kichline, a Republican who holds the minority-party seat on a three-member board of commissioners, called on her Democratic colleagues to use the powers bestowed on them by state law to demand a recount of the Chester-County municipal races on the ballot this year. Kichline indicated in a statement that she has heard from “scores” of county voters over the last several days regarding vote-tabulation problems.
Last week, Chester County Voter Services informed the leadership of both major parties of problems with USB sticks, ballot scans, and data uploads. Voter Services also alerted the parties to delays in counting some mail-in ballots.
“Last week, I became aware of some irregularities in Chester County’s 2021 municipal election,” the commissioner wrote. “While both Parties have been notified, these irregularities continue and must be fixed. Although the Parties agree that these irregularities will not change the outcomes of most races, many questions remain about how these problems occurred. These problems absolutely must be rectified.”
The Republican Committee of Chester County (RCCC) has also requested that Democratic Commissioners Marian Moskowitz and Josh Maxwell join Kichline in commencing a forensic audit of the 2021 general election in the county.
“The purpose of the audit is not to overturn the election,” RCCC Chair Gordon R. Eck wrote to the commissioners. “Rather, the goal is to ensure our voting machines worked properly, that applicable state and federal laws and regulations were followed, that the voter registration lists were accurate and current and only allowed eligible individuals were able to vote, that their vote was correctly counted, and that their votes were not inappropriately voided.”
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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Drew Crompton” by Keep Judge Drew Crompton. Photo “Lori A. Dumas” by Friends of Judge Lori A. Dumas. Background Photo “Voting Booths” by Tim Evanson. CC BY-SA 2.0.