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Official Ballot Count Begins In 18th Congressional District Special Election

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- In election bureaus in Allegheny, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland counties, officials began the final tabulation to determine the official winner between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb.

"Behind us is the duly sworn Return Board, which is comprised of county election employeesm starting the formal tabulation process. As you know, everything on election night is unofficial," assistant Allegheny County solicitor Alan Opsitnick told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.

Opsitnick says the closeness of this election has attracted heightened attention with both political parties assigning watchers to observe.

In an unusual move, a congressional committee – the House Administration Committee – also sent staffers to watch the count, with the chairman U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper writing, "The purpose of the observers is solely to gather information with respect to the election should the election later be contested in the House of Representatives."

In Allegheny County, the Return Board determined that of 128 provisional ballots, 40 should be counted.

But 16 of those were challenged by watchers requiring future hearings, so only the remaining 24 were counted, with Saccone winning 13 and Lamb 11.

After uncounted absentee ballots were added in, Lamb had a net gain of 16 votes over Saccone in Allegheny, 3 votes in Greene, and 2 votes in Westmoreland, while Saccone's lead over Lamb grew by 7 votes in Washington.

Delano: "Why does it take so long to get a final result?"
Opsitnick: "Because all the numbers on election night are unofficial. The official count started today. We spent half of a work day on provisional [ballots]. Another half on absentees. Then we have to go through 253 districts."


"Everything on election night is unofficial. This morning the provisional ballots were reviewed. There were some challenges posed to those provisional ballots. Some were counted, some were not counted," Opsitnick said.

Lamb started the day with a 627-vote margin over Saccone.

By the time Friday's work was finished in all four counties, that lead had grown by 14 votes, but it's not a done deal yet with military ballots still allowed to arrive by mail until next Tuesday and a precinct by precinct review of all ballots still underway.

Opsitnick, who has decades of experience in election law, thinks ultimately Lamb will be declared the official winner.

"The losing candidate would have to net over 600 votes. No. That's why I don't see a set of circumstances where the result is going to change," said Opsitnick.

While the numbers will certainly change, Opsitnick expects the unofficial winner -- Conor Lamb -- to be declared the official winner by election officials no later than April 2.

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