Wednesday, November 22, 2006

House control hinges on Chester County race
MARK SCOLFORO The Associated Press
Article Last Updated:11/09/2006 10:56:30 AM EST

HARRISBURG -- Control of the state House of Representatives has come down to a single race -- the contest for a Chester County seat left open by the retirement of a 15-term Republican.
Republican Shannon Royer was clinging to an unofficial 19-vote lead over Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith, but county elections officials said poll workers mistakenly failed to count about 250 absentee ballots on election night and that about 40 provisional ballots also were uncounted.

It could be more than a week before all the votes -- along with overseas and military ballots -- are included in the results, Chester County officials said yesterday. The seat had been held by Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor for three decades.

This is important... fraud is committed using absentee ballots - everything must be checked out, including the location of residence of absentee ballot electors. Does West Chester have its database of registered voters online?

See Allegheny County database (FYI)
Allegheny County Department of Administrative Services, Division of Elections, has developed the Polling Place and Voter Registration Database (“Database”) as a public service to the citizens of Allegheny County. The Database provides a quick and easy method of determining where the polling place for any particular address within Allegheny County is located. Also, by inserting a voter’s last name and birthdate, users will be able to receive unofficial confirmation of voter registration at the particular address. While all of the information contained in the Database is believed to be accurate, the Database is not the official registry of voter registration in Allegheny County.

Control of state House may hinge on technicalities
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

By Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WEST CHESTER, Pa. -- Control of the state House could hinge on whether a handful of Chester County voters used their middle initials when they signed their absentee ballots.

That's the kind of technicality being argued in the county over 20 ballots in two elections that are too close to call.

Republicans, who have an edge in both races after unofficial Election Night returns, want to exclude some provisional and absentee ballots from the final vote total, while Democrats want them counted.

Both sides made their cases yesterday during six hours of testimony before the county commissioners, who are acting as the Board of Elections. Testimony was expected to continue today and a decision on whether to include those ballots could come as soon as Tuesday.

Then, the challenged ballots that are deemed admissible, along with 529 other sealed absentee ballots in the two races, will be opened and counted.

Not including the ballots being challenged, Republican Shannon Royer has a 19-vote lead over Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith out of 23,018 ballots cast in the 156th District.

In the 167th, Republican Duane Milne leads Democrat Anne Crowley by 136 votes, according to unofficial totals of 26,545 ballots.

Both parties are intensely interested in both races because the outcome will determine who controls the state House. Not including the two races, there are 101 Democrats and 100 Republicans in the House.

GOP attorneys yesterday argued that, for example, James D. Muhly's absentee ballot should not count because he signed it "J.D. Muhly" and that another ballot should be disqualified because election workers failed to stamp the date on it when it arrived in the mail.

In another case, Republicans allege a ballot may have been tampered with because part of the envelope was torn when it arrived in the mail.

"At the end of the day, no matter who wins or loses, we want to make sure it's based on valid votes," Lawrence Tabas, attorney for the Republicans, said during a break in yesterday's proceedings. "The requirements for absentee voting are not onerous. We want to make sure they're followed."

Otherwise, he said, improper ballots dilute those that were properly cast.

At issue were nine overseas absentee ballots, most of which were questioned because forms had not been filled out completely or because signatures on them were not exact matches for those on voter registration cards, and 11 provisional ballots cast by people whose registration could not be verified on Election Day.

Ballot-counting leaves control of state House unresolved

The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - With control of the state House of Representatives hanging in the balance, Chester County elections officials do not expect to announce the results of two close legislative races until after Thanksgiving.

In a third state House contest, for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. John Fichter, the final numbers should be out next week, said Patti Allen with Montgomery County Voter Services.

West Chester Key

Pa. House is still up for grabs A final count of 2 Chesco races has been postponed, leaving in doubt which party will have control.
By Nancy Petersen and Mario Cattabiani
Inquirer Staff Writers
Political control of the state House of Representatives will remain in doubt until at least next week after Chester County officials postponed a final tally of absentee and provisional ballots.

The outcome of the two Chester County state House races could depend on the several hundred uncounted ballots. They will not be tabulated until after Nov. 14, the deadline for receiving military votes, the Chester County Board of Elections ruled.

In one race, only 19 votes separate the winner and loser out of 23,018 cast.

"On or after November 14, we will know the unofficial count," said Lawrence Tabas, who is representing the Republican side of the contest. "If someone asks for a recount, it could go into December."

Hundreds of absentee ballots were mistakenly left out of the unofficial results from Tuesday's election.

In the contest for the West Chester-area 156th seat, Republican Shannon Royer is 19 votes ahead of Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith, according to the unofficial returns from Tuesday.

Smith said that her campaign's review shows that there are 252 absentee and provisional ballots still uncounted from precincts that she won.

A bookkeeper with 30 years of experience, Smith said she understands how human error could have crept into the counting.

"When you have humans involved, there is always going to be some errors," she said.

"The majority is hanging in the balance," she said. "This election now will not only impact on Chester County, but it will also impact on all of Pennsylvania. There is a lot at stake here."

Al Bowman, spokesman for the House Republican Campaign Committee, disputed Smith's assertion that she carried the precincts from which the uncounted ballots were cast.

Bowman said he expects that, in the end, the 19-vote lead will hold up for the GOP.

"I am confident 102 will stand," he said, referring to the number of seats needed to keep the majority. Bowman predicted that whatever the outcome, the result will likely lead to court challenges given the importance of the race.

"Nineteen votes is the difference between higher taxes and lower taxes," he said.

In the Malvern-Exton-area 167th race between Republican Duane Milne and Democrat Anne Crowley, as many as 340 absentee ballots are yet to be counted. Milne won that race by 136 votes, according to the unofficial returns.

The order signed yesterday states that neither validated provisional ballots or the absentee ballots, or any other emergency ballot, will be counted until both sides have their representatives and legal counsel present.

A date when the assorted candidates and their lawyers will all be gathered together has not yet been determined.

County election officials agreed to keep the disputed ballots under lock and key at the office of Voter Services in the county's Government Services Center.

"We are convinced the security of the ballots has been maintained," said John Carnes, who is representing the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

Chester County uses optical scan paper ballots where voters fill in ovals similar to taking a standardized test. Once a voter is finished, the ballot is fed into a scanner that records the vote. When the polls close, workers print out a tape from the scanner showing the unofficial results.

Lani Frank, campaign chairwoman for Smith, said poll workers were dealing with a new system Tuesday night and many shut down their scanners before they processed the absentee ballots at the end of the day. "It was just human error," she said.

GOP clings to 1-vote lead in state House
Brad Bumsted
Thursday, November 9, 2006

HARRISBURG -- Republicans appeared to retain control of the state House by a narrow margin, despite Democratic victories at the top of the ticket.
The Democrats might have fallen one vote short in their bid to reclaim power in the House for the first time since 1994, officials said. It appears the Republicans won a 102-101 majority in Tuesday's election, although several contests remained close. One GOP victory in Chester County hinges on a 19-vote margin.

From the comments of both parties of what should or should not count, it seems to me that the majority of the provisional ballots are from Democrats. I also believe if the result goes to court, the provisional ballots that were rejected
because the ChesCo board of elections did nothing with the voters' DMV
change of address registrations will be reinstated. It's not the voters' fault
ChesCo didn't have a plan to handle or contact voters whose registrations had
been removed from their rolls, but who also submitted change of address
voter forms through the DMV

Recount, schmecount, it seems.

While Linda Cummings, the Chester County Voting honcho, works surprisingly hard to turn herself into the second coming of Katharine Harris — and seemingly shoots down every Democratic voter challenge, while welcoming all Republican voter challenges like they were long, lost relatives, I have learned that the contested races in the 156th and 167th districts may not decide which party will control the Pennsylvania State House.
Federal Election Commission Publication on statewide voter registration databases

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