Apparently as part of an organized statewide effort, a group of Lebanon County Republicans has filed court petitions demanding a hand recount of ballots cast for governor and U.S. Senate in the Nov. 8 general election.

The petitions challenge ballot counts in five county precincts, based on unspecified allegations of election fraud.

According to unofficial results at publication time, Republican senatorial candidate Mehmet Oz garnered 64% of the county’s votes, winning by a 15,426-vote margin. Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano won 57% of the vote, an 8,205-vote margin.

Together, they won nine of the 10 challenged races, according to the Lebanon County Voter Registration office.

Unofficial statistics show Oz and Mastriano lost their statewide races by margins of 263,005 and 791,884 votes, respectively.

The recount requests are based on a seldom-used section of Pennsylvania election law that permits ballots to be recounted if three voters in a precinct allege that there was “fraud or error” in the casting or counting of votes and pay $50.

Similar recount petitions have been filed throughout Pennsylvania, according to multiple media outlets. At least one county court has allowed machine recounts, but rejected requests for a hand count of ballots.

The five separate recount requests, all filed on Nov. 15, were signed and sworn to by three registered Republicans each in the county’s South Lebanon South, North Lebanon East, Palmyra East, Palmyra North, and North Londonderry West precincts.  

All five petitions appear to be identical, fill-in-the-blank, word processor forms.  All claim that:

“To the best of Petitioners’ information and belief, fraud or error, although not manifest on the general return of votes, was committed in the computation of votes cast, or in the marking of ballots, or otherwise in connection with said ballots for the General Election for the offices of _Governor/Lieutenant Governor and United States Senate __ of Pennsylvania, including the election district of Petitioners.”

However, none of the petitions contain specifics, such as the nature of the fraud, how it was perpetrated, how it was discovered, or who is alleged to have committed it.

Instead, the 15 people who filed the petitions merely say in the attached “Verifications” that their claims are “based upon information that I believe to be reliable and that makes me believe that fraud or error, although not manifest on the general return of votes made therefrom, was committed in the computation, canvassing, and tabulation of the votes cast in the November 8, 2022 election.”

The petitioners filing the recount requests are:

  • South Lebanon South: Susan Comp, Patricia Shepps, and Bea McComas-Jones
  • North Lebanon East: Wendy Weirich, Edna M. Carbaugh, and Barry Carbaugh
  • Palmyra East: Michelle Wilson, Frances Luckenbill, and Todd Gottshall
  • Palmyra North: Jessica Barnes, Linda S. Hoover, and Lucille Behrendt
  • North Londonderry West: Joyce Massar, Holly L. Caudill, and Russell B. Hower

Recount requesters have little to say

LebTown reached out twice via email to the 13 petition filers who listed email addresses. There were no responses.

On Nov. 30, LebTown reached out by phone to all 15 petition filers. Susan Comp had no comment other than to say that she would “probably not” be attending any court hearing. Edna Carbaugh, Frances Luckenbill, and Linda Hoover had no comment.

Petioner Russell Hower told LebTown by phone that he did not know where the form petition he filed came from. He refused to say whether he had evidence of election fraud, or what it might be, directing further questions to petitioner Joyce Massar.

Massar’s name appears on the cover sheets of all five recount petitions filed with the court.

The remaining petition filers, including Massar, did not respond to voicemail requests for comment left on Nov. 30.

County election director responds

Sean Drasher, head of the Lebanon County Voter Registration Office, is confident that any recount will show the accuracy of the ballot counts.

“I can tell you that I have gathered all kinds of information to make available to the court if they request it,” he told LebTown. “I’m a nerd with this stuff, and I actually enjoy pulling the data, showing historical trends and vote breakdowns. If the court wants any of that, they will have it.

“Whatever the decision, I’ll be ready. I am not even a little concerned with the situation in regards to election results and integrity, or the validity of machine tabulation. The tabulators we use are absolutely fine.”

But Drasher is concerned by the vague allegations of fraud.

“I AM, however, concerned about the trend of leveling fraud accusations with no proof whatsoever that force additional recounts (remember, we’ve already had two recounts [in prior elections] at this point that 100% confirmed reported results). There are statutes that give people reasonable legal avenues to request recounts. This fraud angle is new and serious.”

Asked what the requested recounts would cost county taxpayers, Drasher said, “Unfortunately, I have no idea. Not yet. After we get some more direction on the exact number of precincts and the exact methodology, we will have a better idea.”

Read More: Lebanon County’s recount in Republican U.S. Senate race results in small changes

Court will rule on the recount requests

A court hearing before President Judge John C. Tylwalk is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 15, at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom No. 1 of the Lebanon Municipal Building.

County solictor David Warner told LebTown that he will represent the Voter Registration Office at the hearing, which will be open to the public.

NOTE: This post was updated on Dec. 5 at 1:35 p.m. to correct the first name of petitioner Susan Comp. The original post also said that the recount petitions delayed certifying the election results. They did not, according to Drasher.

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Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...

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