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Walsh's lead shrinks to four votes in state 117th House District race

State Rep. Mike Cabell, left, and challenger Jamie Walsh
State Rep. Mike Cabell, left, and challenger Jamie Walsh

Three days of evaluating previously uncounted ballots have trimmed challenger Jamie Walsh’s narrow lead over state Rep. Mike Cabell in half in their Republican state House race.

As of Tuesday evening, Walsh’s lead stands at 4,728 to 4,724 in his bid to upset Cabell in their 117th House District Republican primary contest. Walsh said he picked up one vote and Cabell gained two on Tuesday.

The final count on Election Day had Walsh ahead by eight votes, 4,723 to 4,715.

The winner will likely become the next representative because no Democratic candidate filed to run for the seat.

Since Friday, the Luzerne County Board of Elections has reviewed the legitimacy of hundreds of uncounted mail-in, absentee, military and provisional ballots to ensure they comply with state law. Many were in the 117th. Only the provisionals remain unadjudicated.

Lawyers for the candidates have challenged 13 provisional ballots, which aren’t part of the count so far. Walsh’s lawyer challenged 12, Cabell’s one.

Poll workers hand out provisional ballots to voters for various reasons such as a voter forgetting to mail a ballot and voting in person, claims of being registered at a precinct when a voter roll shows otherwise, and others.

Walsh said he confirmed no other military ballots arrived in the mail before the Tuesday deadline.

If no other votes exist, that would mean Cabell needs at least nine of the 13 provisional ballots to go his way to win – by one vote.

The elections board is scheduled to meet Friday at 1 p.m. to listen to the lawyers’ arguments on why the provisional ballots should or should not be counted, county manager Romilda Crocamo said.

“They might need to rent a stadium for this,” Walsh joked during a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

Repeated efforts to reach Cabell, a first-term representative from Butler Township, have been unsuccessful since Election Day.

Walsh, a Ross Township gutter installation company owner, denied feeling nervous about the count since it began.

“I think it's the most healthy thing locally that's happened for an election, since I've been voting,” Walsh said. “It just shows people that your vote matters. I mean, literally, (with) the provisionals, it's going to come down to the people that showed up on Election Day to cast their ballot, couldn't for one reason or another, and they had to fill out a paper provisional ballot. And they took the time and effort to do that. That's what's going to decide this race. And I think it's fantastic.”

Walsh said he received a Facebook message from a White Haven voter who didn’t know anything about the candidates, but voted for him because his poll workers were polite.

“Then when I woke up the next morning, I saw how close the election was,” the man wrote, according to Walsh. “This was the first time ever where I felt my vote mattered. I figured that if Mr. Walsh has such nice friends working with polls, and he's got to be a good guy. So long story short, every vote counts. I wish you the best of luck.”

The message wowed him, Walsh said.

“Isn’t that amazing? First time in his life that he feels his vote actually mattered,” Walsh said.

Borys joins WVIA News from The Scranton Times-Tribune, where he served as an investigative reporter and covered a wide range of political stories. His work has been recognized with numerous national and state journalism awards from the Inland Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association.

You can email Borys at boryskrawczeniuk@wvia.org
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