Election observers from the House of Representatives were on hand in Pennsylvania on Friday as the official canvass began in the 18th Congressional District’s close special election, gathering information that could be used if Republicans challenge the election. But a spokesman for Conor Lamb’s campaign said that the presence of staffers from the Committee on House Administration was standard, and not a signal of any move against the Democratic nominee’s apparent victory.
On Friday afternoon, Pittsburgh reporter John Delano tweeted the letter to Allegheny County’s election board that explained the presence of House observers. One line stood out, raising the possibility that the result of the election could be contested by the Republican-run House.
“The purpose of the observers is solely to gather information with respect to the election should the election later be contested in the House of Representatives,” wrote Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the committee’s chairman.
Democrats cautioned that this was standard practice, and that the committee had sent both Democratic and Republican staffers to complement the presence of both the Lamb campaign and the campaign of Republican nominee Rick Saccone. On Friday, they observed the first day of the canvass, during which state officials recounted votes, marginally changing the count from election night.
Lamb, who declared victory in the race early Wednesday morning, gained 125 votes during the canvass; Saccone gained 108. By the end of the day, Lamb’s overall margin over Saccone grew to 644, greater than the hundreds of military and overseas ballots that will be counted before the state certifies the election.
“The Committee on House Administration received a request from the Conor Lamb Campaign asking the Committee to send a bipartisan team of observers for the completion of the election process. The Committee then received the same request from the Rick Saccone Campaign. The Committee has oversight over congressional elections, therefore the Committee sent a bipartisan team of observers to observe the completion of the PA-18 election,” committee spokeswoman Erin McCracken said in a statement Friday evening.
Both Lamb and Saccone have begun to move on from Tuesday’s election, and are circulating petitions to run in the new districts created by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned a Republican-drawn gerrymander. Saccone filed on Wednesday to run in the new 14th District, which includes the more rural parts of the expiring 18th, and voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by 30 points; Lamb filed on Friday to run in the new 17th District, which includes the Pittsburgh suburbs that he won on Tuesday as well as more conservative Beaver County. That district, represented now by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Penn.), is seen as evenly divided between the parties.
In his first post-election interview, Saccone told Delano on Thursday that he would not concede until “every vote is counted.”
“A team of people is going through that to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed,” he explained.
But asked about national Republicans, who have suggested that voting irregularities reported on Election Day might be grounds for legal action, Saccone said he was focused on getting petitions in the new district.