Last Minute Presidential Recount Push In Centre County

Nov 29, 2016

Heather Ricker-Gilbert turns in affidavits asking for a recount from three voters in her district.
Credit Emily Reddy / WPSU

The last-minute presidential recount effort spearheaded by Green Party candidate Jill Stein is more complicated in Pennsylvania than in most states. In Pennsylvania, three voters from each precinct must file a notarized affidavit asking for the recount. 

Jamie Brenner is one of those who waited in line at the Centre County Elections Office in Bellefonte to submit affidavits. She voted for Hillary Clinton and heard about the recount effort on Facebook.

“I think it’s probably worth taking a look because Trump himself said this week that he was concerned about who voted in this election and it’s our right to request the recount," Brenner said.

Donald Trump has tweeted over the last few days that there was voter fraud in the election and that millions of people voted illegally. He won in Pennsylvania by a little over one percentage point.

Each person who visited the elections office with affidavits gave them to the clerk behind the counter who checked the paperwork to make sure it was correct and looked up each voter to make sure they were registered in the precinct. At the end, she gave them a receipt for their submission.

The voters also shared their paperwork with Joanne Tosti-Vasey, who set up shop on a countertop across from the elections office window.

Tosti-Vasey is a community activist who volunteered to help organize the recount effort in Centre County. She hopes the recount will lead to improvements in the election system, but she said she doesn’t necessarily think it will change the results of the election.

“I think the vote count is far enough apart that that probably won’t happen," Tosti-Vasey said. "Being a part of VotesPA and Concerned Voters for Centre County I want to see the state update their voting process so everybody has a paper trail.”

Centre County uses paper ballots. Most of the state uses electronic voting machines.

Joyce McKinley is the director of elections for Centre County. She says the office saw a steady flow of voters with affidavits all day long. She’s never seen a recount request like this one in her 23 years in the position.

“What they’re requesting is, on the majority of them, is for a manual recount of the presidential candidates as well as U.S. Senate," McKinley said. "And one precinct alone that I looked at has 1,800 voters that voted that day. So it is going to take a substantial amount of time to have that completed, if we’re directed and required to do it.”

McKinley said she’s waiting for word from the county solicitor and the Department of State on whether the recount requests are valid. She expects a legal ruling within a couple of days.

Back in the lobby of the elections office, the voters kept coming. Ieva Perkons turned in her affidavit with her 2-year-old son Marten in tow. She said she was planning to spend the day regrouping after being away for Thanksgiving. But this was more important.

“I’m the child of Latvian immigrants who fled Stalin and so I think it would be really irresponsible of their grandchild or great grandchildren to let something like this go without pursuing it further,” Perkons said.

State GOP spokeswoman Megan Sweeney has called the recount effort “ridiculous.”

Organizer Tosti-Vasey said by the end of the day voters submitted recount affidavits for 28 of Centre County’s 91 precincts. There are more than 9,100 precincts statewide.