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Pa. deadline for counties to certify primary vote, make results official

In the normal process to be used each election, Pa. certifies vote after two types of tabulation audits

  • Jordan Wilkie/WITF
New color coding and highlighted sections may help voters avoid mistakes when returning mail-in ballots.

 Cumberland County

New color coding and highlighted sections may help voters avoid mistakes when returning mail-in ballots.

Today is the deadline for counties to certify primary votes. The state’s election calendar shows two events — election protests and recounts — can delay certification.

There is an election protest over 95 mail-in ballots in Centre County. Luzerne County’s Republican primary for the 117th Legislative District is separated by three votes as of Monday afternoon and is being litigated by the candidates in county court to determine a final vote count. 

All other counties will certify, according to Jonathan Marks, Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions with the Department of State. Election results are unofficial until counties and the state certify them. 

The Department of State can issue a partial certification for all finalized races now and wait to certify any outstanding races later, or wait for all county certifications to be completed and certify everything at once. The department will not decide until all information is received from counties, Marks said. 

It has been 20 days since the April 23 primary. This is the normal amount of time to certify elections as described in Pennsylvania law. It will take the same amount of time, at least, to certify this fall. 

Marks said voters should be confident results are accurate because during that almost 3-week window, each county is making sure everything is correct. 

“Their county board of elections is doing all of the necessary reconciliation to assure themselves and to assure residents of their county that the results that are ultimately certified and reported are accurate.”

Beth Lechman, Centre County’s election director, said the first step in certification is a process called canvassing. 

That process needs to be completed in the first week after the election. Canvassing includes reconciling the number of voters to the number of ballots received, completing the required 2% ballot sample audit, and processing military and provisional ballots. 

Lehman said finishing that process, which requires a lot of work, is a very good feeling. 

“All the totals match, everything’s accurate, and you’re just waiting for the five-day challenge period to come to an end so then you can certify,” Lehman said. 

Centre County Republican Party Chair Michelle Schellberg and 17 other voters in the county signed the petition to challenge mail-in ballots allegedly accepted despite errors with the date section of the return envelope. State Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who represents part of the county but is not a voter there, also signed. There is a hearing in the Court of Common Pleas on Thursday.

For election officials who have completed certification, including an additional statewide audit, like Columbia County’s election director Matthew Repasky, the job now is to prepare for the general election. 

“You go right back at it,” Repasky said. 

He’s already set up the Nov. 5 election in the county system and is again processing voter registrations.

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