More than than two years after the 2020 general election, a hand recount of paper ballots in two races in that contest — in one Pennsylvania county — is scheduled to take place next year.
Up to 40 employees of Lycoming County will go through nearly 60,000 ballots, examining the races for president and state auditor general in a process that will begin January 9, according to PennLive. One observer from each major political party is permitted, but photographs will not be allowed as the recount takes place in the county-owned building.
County commissioners voted along party lines 2-1 in favor of a recount for the presidential contest and one statewide contest in October. The rules were adopted Tuesday. All this followed a group of citizens, many of whom were aligned with the conservative Patriots group, submitting a petition with 5,000 signatures — representing 7% of the county population — in favor of a recount, NorthcentralPa.com reported.
The two Republican commissioners who voted in favor of the review, Scott Metzger and Tony Mussare, argue it would alleviate lingering concerns about fraud. Democrat Commissioner Richard Mirabito has raised concerns about the cost of a recount, and said it sets “a very dangerous precedent” and could “open Pandora’s box,” per PennLive.
Although former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, he dominated Democratic rival Joe Biden in Lycoming, which is located in north-central Pennsylvania. Trump had 41,462 votes over 16,971 votes for Biden.
Republican Timothy DeFoor won the race for auditor general, which is the state’s top fiscal watchdog. In Lycoming, he earned roughly the same percentage of votes Trump did — 69.1% compared to 69.8% — the results show. Turnout was high, slightly above 80%.
County elections director Forest Lehman, who hopes the recount process could be completed before the end of January, argued as recently as this summer that there was not sufficient evidence requiring a recount of the 2020 results. Lehman also noted at a recent elections board meeting that the results of a 2022 election hand count of about 1,000 votes closely matched that of the tabulators, according to PennLive.
While the recount may not be geared toward overturning the results, its findings could play a role in multiple lawsuits filed in Lycoming County court. That includes one suit filed by two members of the county Patriots organization seeking a third-party forensic audit and, if fraud is found, an order decertifying the results of the 2020 election in the county.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that winning Pennsylvania candidates in the 2022 election were still waiting for their victories to become certified more than a month after Election Day, citing a wave of recount requests across the state which it suggests could foreshadow a strategy for the 2024 presidential election.