Pa.’s GOP Senate race may head to a recount. Will it change anything? | Monday Morning Coffee

A new analysis of 20 years of data finds that recounts rarely change electoral outcomes

May 23, 2022 7:10 am

GOP U.S. Senate hopefuls David McCormick (L) and Mehmet Oz (R)(Capital-Star photo collage).

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Republican U.S. Senate candidates David McCormick and Mehmet Oz went into the weekend scrapping for every vote, an effort that took on a renewed urgency thanks to a federal appeals court ruling declaring that undated mail-in ballots from Lehigh County left over from last fall’s election had to be counted, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Saturday.

As the Inquirer notes, the ruling sent both counties and the campaigns into a tizzy, since prior state court rulings had held that that voters had to date their ballots or face having them thrown out. Ninety minutes after the ruling dropped, an attorney for McCormick fire-hosed an email onto the state and elections officials in all 67 counties, the newspaper reported.

“We trust that in light of the [Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’] judgment you will advise your respective boards to count any and all absentee or mail-in ballots that were timely received but were set aside/not counted simply because those ballots lacked a voter-provided date on the outside of the envelope,” the lawyer, Ron Hicks, wrote, according to the Inquirer. “To the extent you are not willing to provide this advice, we ask for a formal hearing before your boards on this issue.”

As of Saturday, with more than 1.34 million votes tallied, Oz had a 1,070-vote edge over McCormick, the Inquirer reported. That’s a difference of less than 0.08 percent of the vote. Under state law, a difference of 0.5 percent or less would trigger a recount, the Capital-Star has previously reported.

But would a recount make a difference? The answer, according to a new report: Possibly, but probably not.

An analysis of 20 years of data by FairVote, a Maryland-based organization that bills itself as “a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms.” found that, of the 31 recounts conducted in 5,778 statewide elections between 2000 and 2019, just three ended with the original result being overturned.

In all three, the original margin of victory was less than 0.05 percent, the analysis found.

For the completists among you, the impacted races were in Washington State’s 2004 gubernatorial election; the 2006 race for state auditor in Vermont, and Minnesota’s 2008 U.S. Senate election, according to the FairVote analysis.

All told, 16 states and Washington D.C have automatic recount provisions based on certain margins. Of those 17 jurisdictions, “eight conduct an automatic recount within a margin of 0.50 percent, four do so within a margin of 1 percent, four do so at margins between 0.1 percent to 0.25 percent, and one, Michigan, conducts automatic recounts for margins equal to or below 2,000 votes,” the report’s authors wrote. “Four states have automatic recounts only in the case of an exact tie. An exact tie has never happened in a statewide race and is exceedingly unlikely so we do not include them in our count of automatic recount states.”

Now, there’s no winner in the Oz/McCormick contest yet. And the campaigns, as of Saturday, hadn’t hit the recount threshold. But the data does suggest the odds are long.

Below, an explanation of why that’s the case.

(Getty Images).

First, margin shifts in recounts are usually small, the analysis found.

“Statewide recounts resulted in an average margin shift of 430 votes between the frontrunners, representing 0.024 percent of the vote in those elections. The largest margin change occurred in Vermont in 2006, where initial errors in hand-counting resulted in a 0.107 percent shift in the recount margin, while the next largest shift in margin was 0.076 percent,” the report’s authors wrote.

And even though “recounts with original margins greater than 0.15% resulted in larger margin shifts relative to recounts with closer margins, the margin shift typically widened the gap between the winning and the losing candidate instead of decreasing it,” they wrote.

Second, margin shifts are smaller in larger elections, with analysis concluding that “shifts in margins did not increase proportionally to the number of ballots cast.

“This means the impact of a single recounted vote on the margin of victory should decrease as the number of votes in an election increases. For example, correcting a single miscounted vote in an election with 10 votes cast would change the margin by 10 percent, but a single error in an election with 1,000 votes would change the margin by only 0.1 percent,” they wrote. “In the 31 statewide recounts in 2000–2019, a recount’s margin shift decreased as the size of the electorate increased.”

Stay with the Capital-Star today and all week for the latest on this unfolding story.

(c) steheap –

Our Stuff.
Nearly 70 million Americans receive benefits from Social Security Administration programs. In this week’s edition of the Numbers RacketCassie Miller breaks down the data.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent in AprilCassie Miller also reports.

Direct-to-consumer marketing and sales by Pennsylvania farmers generated $600 million in revenue in 2020Cassie Miller further reports.

Sifting through last week’s primary results, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News conclude that some high-profile LGBTQ candidates lost their contests, but others saw electoral success.

Pennsylvania’s public schools have doubled their solar power use since 2020, but still have some distance to go, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

A series of record clearing clinics, now underway in Philadelphia, aims to connect thousands of city residents with criminal records with work and a new start, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune reports.

En la Estrella-Capital: Cientos de legisladores estatales, incluida Pa., se han unido a grupos de Facebook de extrema derecha. Y lo que dicen los estadounidenses sobre su salud financiera.

On our Commentary Page this morning: With the Legislature returning to session this week, Richard S. Edley, of the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association, says the state’s most vulnerable residents are at risk — and only lawmakers can fix it. And Pennsylvania, the birthplace of democracy, could elect an insurrectionist governor, opinion regular Dick Polman warns.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman [Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller]

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is out of the hospital, and back home, after suffering aa stroke earlier this month, the Inquirer reports.

After an ill-starred attempt to stop him, Pennsylvania Republicans are lining up behind GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, the Post-Gazette reports.

Spotlight PA, meanwhile, explains how Mastriano built his grassroots campaign (via PennLive).

And it’s entirely too soon to bet against a Mastriano win this fall, LancasterOnline reports.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democrat who will face Mastriano in November, slammed him for his ‘dangerous’ rhetoric about the Big LieTalking Points Memo reports.

The Morning Call updates on the latest on the undecided primary contests in the Lehigh Valley.

PoliticsPA explains how provisional ballots will impact undecided contests.

City & State Pa. rounds up last week’s winners & losers in state politics.

In Philadelphia, the Black Doctors Consortium held a walk-a-thon to shine a line on health equity issuesWHYY-FM reports.

The state will delay the shutdown of two facilities that serve people with intellectual disabilities, WESA-FM reports.

Western communities are reconsidering how the west was reports.

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What Goes On
They’re baaaaacccckkk: The House convenes at 12 p.m. The Senate returns to session at 1 p.m. today.
9:30 a.m., 515 Irvis: House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
10 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Education Committee
10 a.m, Hearing Room 1 North Office Building: Senate Judiciary Committee
12:15 p.m, 461 Main Capitol: Senate Transportation Committee
1 p.m., CoPAHUB Room 115, Harrisburg: Joint State Government Commission
Call of the Chair, 140 Main Capitol: House Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair, G50 Irvis: House Labor & Industry Committee
Call of the Chair: Senate Appropriations Committee
Call of the Chair: Rules & Executive Nominations Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ryan Warner
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ryan Bizzarro
Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out a mere $7,500 today.

As of this writing, Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to Jacob Michaels, of the Morning Call, who celebrated on Sunday. Hope your big day was a good one, sir.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from veteran Mancunian rockers, James, to get your work week rolling. It’s ‘All the Colours of You.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
One rule in hockey: Madison Square Garden is a tough room for visiting teams, as the Carolina Hurricanes found out on Sunday, as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the New York Rangers. The ‘Canes still lead the playoff series 2-1.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.