Five days after the November 8 election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano conceded the race to Democrat Governor-elect Josh Shapiro.
Done deal, right? Wrong.
At last count 21 petitions, each containing three petitioners, have been filed in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. The purpose of the filings is to secure rulings to enable a recounting of ballots, by hand, pertaining to the November 8 election.
A majority of petitions pertain to the governor and lieutenant governor race although other races are also being challenged.
Specifically, the petitions allege that “through information or belief” – not any actual proof – “fraud or error” was committed in the computation of votes cast.
The pending petitions are preventing some Pennsylvania counties from certifying voting results from the November 8 election.
“These orchestrated moves to delay certification of the vote at the county level are a deliberate attempt to flout the will of the people as expressed in the election results,” announced The Pennsylvania Department of State, according to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article.
This is an organized effort and the petition is easily found and readily available online for anyone to print, complete and file with the court.
Two far-right groups, Andy Meehan’s Right for Bucks and Toni Shuppe’s Audit the Vote, collaborated in an endeavor to recruit individuals to file petitions in Bucks County. Shuppe was rumored to be Mastriano’s choice for secretary of state had he been elected governor.
“Though residents have the right to submit recount petitions to their counties, these efforts will not change the undeniable outcome of the Governor’s race, or any other race, and I find it troubling that without even the appearance of impropriety, the integrity of our elections continues to tear attention away from the important work of serving the people of the Commonwealth,” remarked Pennsylvania State Senator Maria Collett.
Bucks County resident Liz Diehl, who is both a judge of elections and a registered elector at the Sellersville Boro District 1 voting precinct, filed a recount petition on November 16.
Diehl took the Pennsylvania judge of elections oath on November 8 promising to “use my best endeavors to prevent any fraud, deceit or abuse,” yet still filed a petition with the court alleging “fraud or error” at the very precinct she oversaw.
Approximately seven months ago, Diehl was featured in a Beacon article after submitting questionable 2022 primary petitions for Dasha Pruitt due to a number of signatures that had been clearly forged.
“Diehl is well-known in far-right Republican political circles. In addition to being an outspoken opponent of DEI in Pennridge School District, she is a Reopen Bucks member and an ardent Doug Mastriano supporter, the so-called “Christian nationalist” GOP candidate for PA governor,” wrote Linda Lee in the Beacon.
Having reviewed one of the filed petitions, Garen Meguerian, a First Amendment attorney and experienced litigator, noted that voting equipment is checked before and after each election.
“Notably, the Board of Elections conducts routine canvassing of the voting machine results following each election based on a comparison of the sealed and unsealed returns from the voting machines,” he said.
It appeared to Meguerian that the petitioners are using a procedure reserved for finding mechanical/mathematical errors to contest the results of the election versus a challenge to the honesty and validity of the election process itself.
“A re-canvass of the machines is aimed strictly at disclosing mechanical or mathematical errors – which are highly unlikely,” he said. “If the court hearing these petitions determines that the challengers are actually attempting, through their petitions, to contest the results of the election, it should summarily dismiss the petitions.”
In fact, Pennsylvania – by way of the Department of State (DOS) – goes to great lengths to ensure the integrity of the voting process and accuracy in tabulating votes. According to the DOS, Pennsylvania counties conduct two types of post-election analyses: a 2 percent statistical sample required by state statute, and a statewide risk-limiting audit (RLA), which counties have been directed to conduct for the November 2022 general election.
Pennsylvania collaborated with experts from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, National Vote at Home Institute, Verified Voting and VotingWorks to develop RLAs that are scientifically designed procedures that use statistical methods to confirm election outcomes and to detect possible interference.
“Thanks to our dedicated poll workers and election officials, the November 8th election was smooth and secure with record turnout,” Senator Collett added.
James O’Malley, Deputy Director of Communications for the Bucks County Board of Elections, said that the filed petitions are delaying the certification of votes for the following offices:
United States Senator, Governor/Lt. Governor, Congress – 1st Congressional District, Senator in the General Assembly – 6th District, and Representative in the General Assembly – 142nd District.
“Bucks County, as of now, has partially certified the election,” he said.
Should a judge grant any of the petitions for vote recounts, it is, per O’Malley, unclear as to who would bear financial responsibility for the process.
“The state election code does not specify that the petitioner has to pay for the cost of the actual recount (staffing, etc.), so it seems the expense could fall on the county,” said O’Malley.