Vexing vote count in Washington, but two-county results are in

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The official tabulation of votes in Washington County has for years, if not decades, been a fairly smooth process, but this time, it raised some hackles.


Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober, the sole commissioner serving on this year’s election board because his colleagues were both seeking higher office, was reluctant to talk about the process, but when pressed, he said Thursday, “Everyone has emotions running high when you have an election, but you have to leave the politics at the door.”


Pundits regularly decry the polarization in American politics, and that’s a term that apparently applied to this year’s nine-member canvass board, where there were many new faces.


Shober called the tabulation process “tedious work” and said he’d like to “maybe have a sit-down, call a meeting of the canvass board. Everyone has thoughts on how to do it differently or better. One of the things you do here is you drop your party relationship and do your job.”


Larry Spahr, Washington County elections director also declined to discuss specifics, but said Thursday, “It may’ve been a personality conflict. They’re here to audit all precincts, regardless of party and regardless of the candidate.


“After the initial smoke settled, they did a pretty good job.”


In results reported recently to the Pennsylvania Department of State, ticket-splitting seemed to have been common among Washington County voters, and even more prevalent in Greene, a final canvass of the Nov. 6 election shows.


Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and John Maher, Republican state auditor general candidate, carried both counties as did Democratic state attorney general candidate Kathleen Kane.


And while Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, a Republican, carried her own county in the state treasurer’s race, her Democratic opponent, incumbent Rob McCord, prevailed in Greene.


Coal mine owner Tom Smith, a Republican, carried both counties, a reversal for Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat who solidly won all Western Pennsylvania border counties, except Crawford, from Erie to Greene in the Democratic wave election of 2006.


Romney carried Washington County by 12,885 votes over Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama, who lost by 3,013 votes in Washington County to Republican John McCain.


The final Washington County tally submitted to the Department of State was 53,230 votes for Romney to Obama’s 40,345. In Greene, where Sen. John McCain took Greene County by 60 votes in 2008, Romney received 8,428 votes to Obama’s 5,852.


In his successful bid for a second term, Obama carried Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, and presidential electors are scheduled to meet at noon Dec. 17 in Harrisburg.


In the attorney general’s race, Kane had 47,441 votes to David J. Freed’s 42,008. Maher’s Washington County totals for auditor general nearly mirrored that of Kane’s as he finished with 47,292. Democrat statewide winner Eugene DePasquale had 40,787 votes in Washington. The men’s totals in Greene were Maher, 6,778, and 6,325 DePasquale.


In the state treasurer’s race, Vaughan carried the county with 48,794 votes to incumbent Democrat Rob McCord’s 40,201.


Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi, a Democrat, lost his home county to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by 12,278 votes, 43,591 to 31,313. In Greene, the totals were Murphy, 4,580, and Maggi, 2,909.


In the strongly Democratic Mon Valley, the relatively unknown Karen Ramsburg, a Democrat from Mercersburg, Franklin County, bested five-term Republican lawmaker Bill Shuster of Hollidaysburg, Blair County. Ramsburg had 10,397 votes to Shuster’s 7,778 in Washington County, and 3,459 in Greene to Shuster’s 2,966.


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