Judge Overrules Board of Elections' Refusal to Recount Ballots in Sharp Rebuke


Let’s venture into the thick weeds of Pennsylvania election law.

I know — not exactly anyone’s idea of a good time. But this is important, because we need to look at the sleights of hand and skirtings of law that may be going on around the country.

It’s all hard to prove, but many people believe we’ve recently had elections that don’t pass the smell test. It looks like it was that way in Chester County, Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia.

It starts at the precinct level — the smallest political entity that may be a few city blocks or, in less populated areas, a few square miles.

And here’s the deal in the Keystone State: If only three voters in a precinct think there’s a problem with an election, those voters can file a petition with the county election board and, until the issue is resolved, the election board cannot certify the election.

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But the Chester County Board of Elections thought otherwise, despite valid petitions to recount ballots from the November election.

When the voter recount petitions went before Judge Jeffrey Sommer in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, Sommer scheduled a hearing to examine the claims, the Delaware Valley Journal reported.

Rather than respond to the petitions, the Democrat-controlled election board went ahead and certified the election. That was in violation of the law, according to Republican election board member Michelle Kichline.

Sommer, reviewing the recount petitions, wanted to see evidence of fraud. Dissatisfied with what he was presented with, he rejected the petitions “with prejudice,” meaning the petitions could not be refiled.

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The petitioners said there was prejudice, all right, and it was coming from the judge.

The petitioners had cited polling that showed 52 percent of Americans believed there was fraud in the 2020 election. Sommer raised typical objections to that statistic: “Well, they’re wrong. We know that,” he said. “Even Republicans know that factually. … Well, you may not, and the QAnon people may not, but people know.”

But none of it makes any difference, according to Pennsylvania law. That’s because the required three voters filing the petition don’t have to demonstrate any evidence of fraud. They’re just stopping the clock so questions about the election can be answered.

The Chester County voting question ended up in the lap of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, an appeals court.

That court, in a Feb. 10 opinion by Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon, lowered the boom on both Sommer and the Chester County Board of Elections.

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“The Trial Court did not schedule a date and time for the opening of the ballot boxes as required,” Cannon wrote. “Instead, the Trial Court entered an order scheduling a ‘hearing.’”

She said the state Supreme Court had ruled that elections cannot be certified while “petitions to open the ballot boxes are pending.”

Echoed Kichline: “Once those petitions are filed by voters, it stops the process.”

Ada Nestor, who helped organize the petitions, said, “It was disappointing to see the law misunderstood by Judge Sommer and by [Chester County Board of Elections Democrats Marian Moskowitz and Josh Maxwell.”

She was also disappointed with Republican Al Schmidt, acting secretary of the commonwealth, who filed a brief with the appeals court saying election petitioners should either point to specific fraud or file petitions from every precinct in the state.

As a result of the appeals court ruling, Nestor expects questioned ballot boxes will be opened and there will be recounts.

Kichline said the issue was the process, not ballot security. She said nearby Berks County had petition challenges and the election, according to the law, was not certified.

Why are anomalies in one county in one state important? Why go in the weeds?

Because of the 52 percent of Americans who are unsure of the results of the 2020 election, the reality that 147 members of Congress declined to certify all of the results in that election, and lingering questions about the recent Arizona election.

With nearly 177,000 voting precincts, there are many opportunities for corruption. And, as Kichline said, it’s not about specifics as much as it is about process.

It is imperative that we have solid laws governing elections. And they must be embraced to the letter.

Election integrity is a foundation of confidence in the republic.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.