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How a recount would be triggered in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary

<i>Keith Srakocic/AP</i><br/>Election workers continue the process of counting ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election on Wednesday
Keith Srakocic/AP
Election workers continue the process of counting ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election on Wednesday

By Rachel Janfaza

Hours after Tuesday’s primary, Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick are locked in a tight race for the GOP nomination for Pennsylvania’s US Senate race, which could be key to determining control of the chamber in November. The race, which is yet to be called, could be headed for a recount.

So how would that happen in the Keystone State? If the final margin is close enough, a recount is triggered automatically, although the candidates would have the option to waive it. CNN spoke to the Pennsylvania Department of State about when and how such a recount could happen.

How is a recount triggered in Pennsylvania?

“Pennsylvania’s Election Code requires the Secretary of State to order all county boards of elections to conduct a recount if a candidate in a statewide election was defeated by one-half of one percent (.5%) or less of the votes cast for the office,” the Pennsylvania Department of State told CNN via email Wednesday.

Defeated candidates have the option to waive the recount. Neither Oz nor McCormick has suggested they’ll be giving up easily.

At his election night event on Tuesday, Oz told supporters, “When all the votes are counted, we will win.”

McCormick’s campaign has also projected confidence. “Dave will win this race,” Jeff Roe, chief strategist to the campaign, wrote in a message on Twitter early Wednesday morning.

Under the Election Code, the Pennsylvania Department of State said, “the order would need to be issued by 5 p.m. of the second Thursday after the election, in this case by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 26, 2022.”

The automatic recount provision has been triggered six times since it was enacted in 2004, according to the department, though only three recounts were carried out (the other three were waived).

A recount was triggered last November in the race for an open seat on Pennsylvania’s statewide Commonwealth Court between Democrat Lori Dumas and Republican Drew Crompton.

None of the three previous recounts changed the result of the election, the department said.

“The law requires county board of elections to recount all ballots using a different method than the initial tabulation. This could be by hand or using a different mechanical or electronic device,” the department said, adding that “the recount is conducted transparently” and “affected candidates are entitled to be present or be represented by an attorney to observe the recount proceedings.”

Should the candidates forgo the waiver and the recount be triggered, “the secretary will issue the order and the department would assist each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to ensure a smooth and timely process,” the department said.

What is the acting secretary of state saying?

Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Wednesday that counties will send their unofficial returns to her office next Tuesday, and she “will make a determination as to whether or not we want to move forward with the automatic recount.”

“A candidate can waive the recount if they … choose to do so, which could happen,” she said.

Chapman said her office had not been in touch with either Oz or McCormick about a potential waiver. “We haven’t received any communication from either of the candidates around that process,” she said.

She emphasized that during a recount, “counties are required to count on a different type of machine, or they could hand count. It just has to be different from the original type of tabulation that they’re currently doing right now.”

While all of the votes may not be counted by next Tuesday, Chapman said she will “have a very good sense” by then about whether the commonwealth is headed for a recount.

“I’m required by law to send out a press release 24 hours before that Thursday deadline, so we’ll have a good sense Tuesday and Wednesday whether or not we’re going to have an automatic recount in Pennsylvania,” she said.

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