Williamsport, Pa. — The hand recount of two races from the 2020 election in Lycoming County has been completed, and there is no fraud indicated, according to Lycoming County Director of Voter Services Forrest Lehman.
The recount was scheduled for Jan. 9 through Jan. 31, but took far less than the budgeted three weeks. County employees took shy of three days, with a staff of 26 workers divided into 13 teams of two, to complete the recount.
"I'm pleased that it was completed that quickly," said Lehman. "Also somewhat surprised. There was no precedent for this."
Some called the process a severe waste of resources that assigned too much value on the misplaced suspicion of fraud; others said it was a worthy and necessary exercise.
According to Lehman, "The allegations were an attack on the county, election officials, and voting equipment."
Members of the group in favor of the recount, some affiliated with a group known as the Lycoming County Patriots, collected 5,000 signatures on a petition requesting County Commissioners approve the recount. By a vote of 2-1, the recount was approved.
Those who signed the petition alleged there were "thousands" of fraudulent ballots, calling into question the accuracy of the election, according to Lehman.
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Now that the hand count is complete, and the results reflect voter integrity in the 2020 election, Lehman questions where the evidence was for the recount in the first place.
"The hand count numbers tracked very closely to the machine count," he said. "Where is the evidence from the other side?"
According to Lehman, election officials test voting machines before each election, and they hand count an audited sample after every election. "There is a good balance between humans and technology," Lehman said. The machines handle the bulk of the ballots, and when a question or challenge arises, humans step in to oversee those challenges, he explained.
"A full hand count injects the likelihood of human error," said Lehman. "People have asked me where I get my confidence. My trust and belief in the process is supported by years of evidence, reaffirmed with every election," he said. More than 80,000 ballots have gone through the equipment. "Every step, it checks out," he said.
"I had hoped we could get to a place with the public where they could feel comfortable about the machines through discussion," said Commissioner Rick Mirabito, who was the sole "nay" vote for the recount. "No one contested the 2022 election. It was the same machines that tabulated those votes."
Commissioner Tony Mussare called it "a great exercise," affirming that there is voter integrity in Lycoming County, that "the system works." He also indicated a need for voter education on properly filling out a ballot.
More information about the results of the 2020 hand recount will be forthcoming from the Department of Voter Services, and the public is invited to a Board of Elections meeting on Jan. 24, where the results will be discussed.