Review coming for close Westmoreland commissioner race; recount not automatic
Results of Tuesday’s Westmoreland County Commissioners election are expected to be officially certified by Nov. 27.
Three-term Democratic incumbent Ted Kopas lost his seat by just 234 votes to fellow incumbent Democrat Gina Cerilli, who came in third in Tuesday’s four-candidate race. Republicans Sean Kertes and Doug Chew secured to the top two board seats to reclaim a GOP majority.
County officials reported that 84,738 ballots were cast in Tuesday’s election, a turnout that reached nearly 36%.
The razor-thin margin between the two Democrats will be subjected to a general recanvassing this week in which elections officials will ensure the vote totals were accurately reported from each touch-screen machine.
That review, conducted after every election, is scheduled Friday and is not considered a recount, said Beth Lechman, director of the county Elections Bureau. It functions as a final unofficial review of the results that will include a first-time counting of about 10 provisional ballots cast Tuesday as well as an estimated 10 military ballots mailed from service members and another 20 absentee ballots that were not included with the initial results.
Candidates and officials from the Democratic and Republican committees can attend the recanvassing, Lechman said.
There is no mandatory provision in the law for a recount of the commissioners race results, she said.
“There are mandatory recounts for state races when the results are less than one-half of one percent. There are no requirements for a recount of county races,” Lechman said.
The margin between Cerilli and Kopas was less than 0.2%.
Kopas has until Nov. 27 to seek an official recount. To do so, he would be required to pay $50 for each voting machine from which he would seek a recount. The county used 801 machines on Election Day, meaning it would cost more than $40,000 to do a complete recount. A potential recount would also include a by-hand tally of all 2,296 absentee ballots submitted, Lechman said.
Kopas did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, Kopas said he was disappointed by the election results “as it stands right now.”
Kertes and Cerilli said, as of late Wednesday morning, they had not heard from Kopas as to whether he would challenge the results or concede the race.
The county’s three-member elections board, which includes two county Common Pleas Court judges and retiring Commissioner Charles Anderson, is tentatively slated to pre-certify Tuesday’s vote tally on Nov. 20.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .