#PA18 Live Blog: District 18 Special Election

Mar 13, 2018

Follow 90.5 WESA's live blog throughout the day for continuing coverage of the District 18 special election. 

12:45 a.m. Conor Lamb declares victory

Taking the stage to applause, a smiling Conor Lamb tells the crowd: “It took a little longer than we thought but we did it!" He adds, "You did it! You did it!"

The Associated Press has not yet called the race, and Rick Saccone has not conceded.

11:59 p.m. At least Drew Miller's having fun

Or at least it seems. As everyone sits waiting for the Saccone-Lamb race that's currently too close to call, the largely overlooked third-party candidate, Libertarian Drew Miller, had a little fun and sent out this sarcastic tweet:

11:31 p.m.: ... And more absentee ballots will be counted

Washington County elections director Larry Spahr says absentee ballots in his county -- all 1,195 of them -- will be counted tonight. Additionally, Westmoreland County will count its 1,808 ballots tonight too. Military ballots will be counted tomorrow, but it's unclear how many there are.

11:08 p.m.: Allegheny is in

CNN reports that all of Allegheny County's absentee ballots are in, with Lamb gaining an extra 752 votes. Overall, he leads the county by about 15,000 votes.

11:02 p.m.: Deadlocked

After Washington County absentee ballots were counted, Conor Lamb leads by a mere 100 votes. Allegheny County is still in the process of counting absentee ballots, so that number will likely change. Officials with Allegheny County say there are 4,100 absentee ballots and hope to have them counted by midnight. 

10:48 p.m.: The absentee ballots will be counted. At least, some of them will

UPDATE: At least Allegheny County will count absentee ballots tonight. County officials confirmed they plan to have ballots counted before midnight. 

10:37 p.m.: And this winner is ... we still don't know

Lamb and Saccone have remained less than 1,000 votes apart for the latter portion of the evening. It's too close to call yet and we may have to wait even longer for an answer. Reports indicate that the absentee ballots won't be counted tonight, which could ultimately determine the winner. For now, we wait. 

10:08 p.m.: What if it is too close to call?

According to state officials, the District 18 race wouldn't necessarily produce an automatic recount -- that only comes into play with statewide races. However, there are two ways to seek a recount or recanvass, according to Pennsylvania law: 

First, voters may petition their County Board of Elections. The petition must be filed prior to the completion of the computation of all of the returns for the county. Also, voters may petition the Common Pleas Court for a recount or recanvas. Three voters in the same precinct must verify that fraud or error not apparent from the returns was committed in the vote tabulation. These petitioners must submit a $50 cash payment or a $100 bond. Unless the petitioners plead fraud or error and offer prima facie evidence supporting that allegation, they must also file qualified petitions from three voters in every single precinct in which ballots were cast for the office in question. These petitions must be filed within five days after completion of the County Board’s computation of the vote.

9:52 p.m.: A very close race

Saccone has almost caught up with Lamb, with 86 percent of precincts reporting now. Lamb just slightly leads.

9:32 p.m.: No more needle?

The New York Times brought out its prediction needle for the District 18 race. However, as reporter Nate Cohn points out, Westmoreland County votes won't be counted by precinct, throwing the whole model off. 

9:22 p.m.: Halfway there

Just about half of the votes are in. Lamb continues to lead, but Saccone has narrowed in on him throughout the night. 

9:10 a.m.: What supporters are saying

Even though Lamb has held a solid lead as the poll results have trickled in, the mood is hopeful and buzzy at both candidates' headquarters for the night. 

At Saccone HQ, two neighbors say they support the Republican because they feel he will protect the coal industry.

At Lamb HQ, supporters lauded the Democrat's independent thinking, saying he doesn't just follow the party. 

8:52 p.m.: Lamb continues to lead

More and more precincts are reporting, up to 10 percent now, and Lamb's lead continues to grow. 

8:42 p.m.: Meanwhile at Lamb HQ ... 

As the first precincts' numbers rolled in (less than 1 percent of precincts reporting), showing Lamb holding a narrow lead, cheers broke out at the Democratic candidate's HQ. Lamb supporters, like Braddock Mayor John Fetterman were optimistic about the campaign.

8:30 p.m.: A quick snapshot of Allegheny County

Only 1 percent of precincts in Allegheny County are reporting so far, but show Lamb leading. It's an interesting first look, with fewer than 500 votes counted and reflective of a tight race. 

8:00 p.m.: And now we wait

Polls are officially closed. Results likely won't start rolling in until well after 8 p.m. though, so get comfy. In the meantime, bookmark this page to check the results once precincts do start reporting. 

7:38 p.m.: “This country has been raked over the coals since World War II.”

Though District 18 is often referred to as Trump Country (the president won the district by more than 20 points in 2016), it's home to people of varying political ideologies and backgrounds. Ahead of today's election, PublicSource talked to a number of the district's residents. Find out what they had to say here

6:53 p.m.: What's going on in Monroeville?

Allegheny County elections officials report receiving "numerous calls and inquiries" related to Dr. Cleveland Steward Elementary in Monroeville. That location is typically a polling place for three separate voting wards in the Monroeville area. Two of those wards fall within the current 14th Congressional District, which is not holding an election today. Only one ward, Monroeville 5-3, sits inside the 18th.

Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs says poll workers are reporting a few hundred 14th District voters have not been permitted to cast a ballot, and complaint calls continue to come in. Nearby municipalities Plum and Pitcairn are experiencing similar issues, and have directed wayward voters to the Monroeville school.

Downs says poll workers are talking to potential voters individually to assess which district they belong to. Find out which ward and district you belong to here.

6:29 p.m.: Buzzword bingo

National outlets are continuing to weigh in on as voting winds down in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. A recent sampling:

NPR and the Center for Responsive Politics also offered an analysis of 18th District spending

Locals seem to be keeping a good attitude about it:

5:09 p.m.: Turnout could be higher than expected  

Allegheny County Spokesperson Amie Downs reports local turnout could go above 30 percent, according to Election Division Manager Mark Wolosik. Democrat Conor Lamb has polled strongest in precincts nearest Pittsburgh.

Officials in nearby Westmoreland County, which leans more Republican, expect turnout figures between 20 to 30 percent, according to the AP. Trump carried the 18th Congressional District in 2016, as did Mitt Romney in 2012.

Emerson College professor Spencer Kimball told WESA on Monday that he predicted excitement around the race could coax 40 to 50 percent of the district's registered voters into local precincts. Kimball said voter participation varies widely in special elections, and can drop below 30 percent in off-year elections.

4:30 p.m.: Signage isn't helping

Local would-be voters are still frustrated they haven't been able to cast a ballot. Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs said in an email, "We continue to receive calls from voters who are confused as to which district they are in, or upset because they could not vote today. Additionally, many polling places which are not in the district have posted signs which are not accurate, or confusing, causing other calls."

Some voters have shared examples of those signs on social media.

The confusion isn't limited to Western Pennsylvania. The Allentown Morning Call reports voters in Northampton and Lehigh counties have called local election commissions as well, prompting one county registrar to update the county's website.

3:16 p.m.: An early night?

According to Politico, Republicans who reached out to the site said they "expect it could be an early night in Pennsylvania," saying they expect Conor Lamb to win. 

3:05 p.m.: District 18 voters, especially in Westmoreland County, are showing up

According to AP reporter Marc Levy, the Westmoreland County Republican chair expected 40 percent of voters to show up at polls Tuesday. That would be a huge jump from previous special elections that garnered voter turnout in the teens. Additionally, he says Allegheny County officials are expecting 25 to 30 percent turnout. 

1:09 p.m.: Local voters are still confused

Allegheny County officials say the Elections Division has been receiving calls all day from voters who do not live in the 18th District but, "either believe they are or are still expecting to vote." 

As we mentioned earlier, Google trends showed that in the last week some of Pittsburgh's top searches revolved around figuring out which district they lived in. 

12:51 p.m.: Snow and voter turnout

Snow is starting to fall, and the National Weather Service predicts snow showers in the afternoon. Could this affect voter turnout? It could spell especially bad news for Conor Lamb.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review references a study that found that "bad weather suppressed turnout, with a disproportionate impact on Democratic voters. Turnout dropped 1 percent for each inch of rain and a half percent for every inch of snowfall, researchers found."

12:26 p.m.: The third candidate

There's a lot of talk about Saccone and Lamb, but there is also a third challenger to the District 18 seat.  Drew Gray Miller, a 37-year-old Libertarian from the South Side, is also hoping to nab the seat. As the Incline reports, Miller is a local lawyer and served as the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Whip's legal counsel. In an interview with KDKA-TV, he said, "I have both the youth of Conor Lamb and the experience of Rick Saccone." He also boasted his legislative experience from his time working in Harrisburg. 

11:02 a.m.: What Pittsburgh is Googling

Google trends in Pittsburgh show increases in the last week of people searching the terms "Vote Lamb" and "Vote Saccone," with the number of people searching "Vote Lamb" doubling in the last 24 hours.

Pittsburghers have also wanted to know a variety of things about each candidate's personal lives, from "Is Conor Lamb married?" and "How tall is Conor Lamb?" to "Where is Rick Saccone from?" and "How old is Rick Saccone?"

Apparently Pittsburghers in the last week have also been unclear whether or not they live in the 18th District, with "What congressional district am I in?" and "Where is the 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania?" showing up as top searches associated with both candidates. 

10:04 a.m.: Saccone votes

Meanwhile, a look at how voters in Edgeworth are voting:

9:25 a.m.: A look around tahn

90.5 WESA's Katie Blackley swung through Sewickley along Ohio River Boulevard, spotting a handful of campaign signs for both Lamb and Saccone. In an already tight race, if campaign signs are any indicator, it's still too close to call. 

8:22 a.m.: But what happens after the election?

The new congressional map, as decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Credit Pennsylvania Supreme Court

A lot of money and energy have been pumped into the District 18 race. But you may be thinking: isn't there a new congressional map? Yes (at least as of now), which means a newly outlined District 18 will be used for the May primary.

So, what happens then? Well, whoever wins will remain in office through the remainder of the year. Both Lamb and Sacoone could run in May's primary -- seeking a full term in office -- in separate districts or against each other. Lamb, who lives in Mt. Lebanon,  under the new map would be bumped to District 17. He hasn't said which district he would run in, come May. Saccone will remain in the 18th District, even under the new map, and has also indicated he'll run in the May primary, but also didn't say in which district. Congressional candidates don't have to live in the district they represent. 

7:36 a.m.: What you need to know

Still unsure of who you want to vote for or need a quick primer on where the candidates stand? Check out this post for a refresher on the special election, as well as where Conor Lamb and Rick Saccone stand on issues such as gun control, health care and abortion. 

7:00 a.m.: Polls are open

Residents of Pennsylvania's (current) 18th Congressional District, will cast their votes for who will take the seat formerly held by Republican Tim Murphy. 

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Preview the ballot here

Confused by the congressional map back-and-forth or just not sure if you're in District 18? The Washington Observer-Reporter makes it easy to check by entering your zip code, municipality or using a handy interactive map

Not sure where your poling place is? This website will help you find you find it. And once the polls close this evening, you can track the special election results here

Want to get to know the candidates? Check out our pre-Election Day coverage

We'll have more throughout the day, so be sure to check back.