Pa. statewide judge race heads to recount, GOP requests another in Chester County

By: - November 10, 2021 5:03 pm

Pennsylvania is redesigning its mail-in ballots for 2024. (Capital-Star photo)

*This story was updated with comment from candidate Drew Crompton at 6 p.m., Wednesday 11/10/21. and comment from Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell at 10:05 a.m., Thursday 11/11/21

The votes cast in the race to fill two open seats on a Pennsylvania appellate court will be recounted, the Department of State said Wednesday.

Recounts in Pennsylvania are required by law if the gap between the winning and losing candidates is within one-half of one percent, unless the losing candidate waives the recount. Votes and county election boards, typically made up of county commissioners, can also start a recount under state law.

Currently, the gap between the second- and third-place candidates for Commonwealth Court — Democrat Lori Dumas and Republican Drew Crompton, respectively — is within that margin, and the Crompton campaign has not waived the review.

The two are separated by about 16,000 votes out of about 2.8 million total ballots cast. Dumas currently has 1,288,936 votes, according to unofficial results; Crompton has 1,272,932.

After trailing for the first three days of counting, Dumas, a Philadelphia judge, took a lead for the second seat on the court last Friday over Crompton, a former top Senate staffer appointed to the bench in 2019 running for a full 10-year term.

The two are in a dead heat to join Republican candidate Stacy Wallace, a McKean County attorney, on the court, which handles lawsuits against the state and other public agencies. The Department of State said Wallace had secured the seat in the release announcing the recount.

The recount is the latest sign of the tightening in many races that appeared to be going well for Republicans on Election Night. The Associated Press had called three of the four races for the GOP by early Wednesday morning, including a key race for  state Supreme Court seat.

“It is day four on the mail in ballot counting. Turnout was 30 percent….It is hard to believe that it needs to take this long,” Crompton tweeted Friday.

Crompton’s  campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The recount will be the third since the recount law was passed in 2004, and cost taxpayers an estimated $1.3 million.

A Dumas win would be a consolation prize for Democrats in the off-year midterm with President Joe Biden in office, elections that typically go against the party in the White House.

In local races in southeastern Pennsylvania, Democrats saw some municipal gains rolled back, while some of their last vestigial office holders in southwestern Pennsylvania were defeated.

However, Dumas joins a smattering of bright spots for Democrats, including wins in Allegheny, Northampton, Chester, and Delaware counties, and a mixed bag of school board wins across the commonwealth.

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Crompton’s may also not be the only recount in the state.

In Chester County, Republicans’ election night leads evaporated as mail-in ballots were tallied, and Democrats ended up holding onto all four county row office seats with margins well outside the recount threshold.

The count was slowed by an issue discovered last Thursday morning, according to the Unionville Times, that led to the counting of fewer mail-in and absentee votes than the county had received. The county also discovered mail-in ballots at a drop box that had not been counted.

The county released that information in a statement signed by all three county commissioners —  two Democrats and one Republican, and said it had informed both parties of the issues. Ballots were rescanned with observers from both parties, which finished Wednesday, Commissioner Josh Maxwell told the Capital-Star.

But in a letter to the Democratic-controlled Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, the county Republican party called for a “full forensic audit” of the 2021 election, echoing the language of former GOP President Donald Trump as he spread unsubstantiated doubts about his own loss in 2020.

The letter cited unspecified “irregularities” to call for the investigation, which it said could be used to correct administrative errors that may have led to the counting issues.

“The right to vote in a free and fair election is the most basic civil right,” GOP party Chairperson  Gordon Eck said in the letter. “It is imperative that confidence in the legitimacy of this process be restored.” 

Republican County Commissioner Michelle Kichline has since sent a letter to her own commissioner colleagues Wednesday afternoon calling for a recount of the county’s results.

“Although the Parties agree that these irregularities will not change the outcome of most races, many questions remain about how the problems occur,” Kichline said.

Crompton cited the counting troubles in Chester County in comments on his recount request to the Associated Press.

“The first count was not smooth across the commonwealth,” he said.

This call has been decried by Democrats, such as at Turn PA Blue, a grassroots organization that attempts to elect Democrats to local and state offices.

“The Republican Committee of Chester County got swept last week, losing every countywide seat. Now they are doubting the legitimacy of the election,” the group said in a Tweet. “The Republican Party is a joke, but a dangerous one. It’s all on the line in 2022.”

Maxwell, a Democrat, added that he found it odd his GOP colleagues had called for a recount and audit as counting was still ongoing, and as GOP observers who watched the process hadn’t raised any concerns in-person.

I think these calls to election offices are happening locally, they’re happening nationally, and they claim a national narrative that that all elections are inherently fraudulent,” Maxwell said. “I hope [Kichline] speaks to our voter services stack and feels comfortable with the work that they did and the results are displayed.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.