Hope remains for vote recount despite setback

BELLEFONTE — The Board of Commissioners has approved certifying the computation of Election Day votes without a recount, but residents who are seeking a recount still have an avenue to take.

On Tuesday morning, a meeting was held for the Centre County Board of Elections, where it was concluded that any resident seeking recount at the local level can still petition the Court of Common Pleas.

Two local residents spoke at the meeting about the importance of a recount of votes at the local level.

According to Mary Vollero of Julian, almost 100 Centre County residents filed affidavits for a hand recount in their specific precincts on Monday, an effort that was organized within three days. This came to 32 precincts out of the 91 total in the county.

These petitions came under the Pennsylvania Election Code 25 P.S. 3154(e), which in summary states that as long as it is within five days of the finalized vote, the Board of Elections can conduct a recount when three or more voters from a specific precinct request a recount. According to Joanne Tosti-Vasey of Bellefonte, who spoke as a member of both Concerned Voters of Centre County and Vote PA, the lawyers she spoke with said they had five business days. However, it was determined that afternoon after a recess to speak with the county solicitor, that the stated five days in the code are consecutive calendar days, so the petitions could be rejected since the allotted time had expired.

“I’m more than confident that if there was more time, there would have been people from every precinct,” Vollero had said prior to the recess.

Vollero said she could not speak to others’ reason to see a recount but she said her concern in the petition she had filed was cyber security. She said that she is concerned about hacking and malware, where viruses have the ability to go completely undetected by election officials.

“If it turns out that everything matches up, then our citizens, the people who filed these petitions and others, will see much more confidence in our election system, at least locally,” Vollero said.

One way to see an accurate vote count is through manual recount of paper ballots, where Centre County is only one in a handful of counties in Pennsylvania that still uses paper ballots.

“There may not be a whole lot of change when we do this paper ballot count, but we have a country right now that is up in arms and we’re fighting with each other,” Tosti-Vasey said. “We need to make sure some way it happens that people will accept the elections the way they occurred.”

The majority of the petitions the county received expressed concern with the overseas and military ballots received through the end of the day on Nov. 15, according to Joyce McKinley, county director of elections and voter registration. She ensured that those ballots were counted and added to the county’s final total in its election system.