One week after the Nov. 2 election, with ballots still not completely counted, Dr. Gordon Eck, chair of the Chester County Republicans, sent a letter to county commissioners asking for a forensic audit of the election returns.
Some “143,000 residents of Chester County voted in our municipal election. One week later, after the discovery of numerous problems with the vote tabulation, we still await the final results,” Eck wrote. “We applaud the efforts of Voter Services, solicitors, and volunteers to correct these errors, but unfortunately, the damage has been done. With a recurrence of significant irregularities, combined with the problems related to last year’s election and the failure of the commissioners to reconcile the votes as required by law, a large segment of our community has lost trust in our election process,” Eck said in the letter.
Evidently, a software error resulted in more votes tallied than ballots, and additional ballots were located in a ballot box at the Downingtown Library, county officials said.
“It is the supreme responsibility of our commissioners, as elected public servants, to assure the people of Chester County of the election process’s integrity through complete transparency and the faithful review of the election process,” Eck wrote. “The Republican Committee of Chester County, on behalf of all the residents of Chester County, respectfully requests a full forensic audit of the 2021 General Election.”
Charlotte Valyo, who chairs the Chester County Democrats, dismissed Eck’s request.
“A forensic audit is not provided for under election law,” said Valyo. “There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of Chester County voters. Fortunately, there is a clear legal framework within the election code which has for decades maintained the election integrity in Chester County. Chester County Voter Services is following the law and maintaining transparency by the inclusion of solicitors of the Democratic and Republican parties throughout the process. The presence of observers from both parties has enhanced this transparency. This process is intensive and time-consuming and will require the patience and participation of all parties involved.”
However, Valyo admitted there were problems.
“Chester County Voter Services (CCVS) and our party solicitor are working to ensure every legitimately cast vote has been counted. During the work of reconciling the number of ballots counted with the number received, a discrepancy was identified. To immediately address the discovery, ballot counting was suspended on Friday, November 5th.
“On Saturday and Sunday, CCVS performed a reconciliation of the number of ballots received in the many different categories with the number of ballots counted. Problems detected were reported openly to both parties and both parties agreed to the reconciliation process and to the fact that there would be no observers over the weekend during the reconciliation process which is intensive and tedious,” Eck wrote.
“The unaccounted-for mail-in ballots have been identified and will be uploaded. Absentee, overseas and military ballots will also be counted and uploaded. Provisional ballots will be considered once all other ballots are counted…The Democratic and Republican solicitors will be involved in discussing the process for ballot counting. Both parties will have observers in the room in addition to the solicitors.”
Valyo touted the Democrats’ wins and said, “I believe we will have more successes as the ballot counting and reporting continues.”
These ballot issues are frustrating to voters in a county that just hired a new director of elections earlier this year, after problems with mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election.
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline also released a statement: “On Thursday, November 4, Chester County Voter Services staff identified a discrepancy in the counting of mail-in and absentee ballots. In essence, more votes were received than counted. Voter Services determined a software problem caused the discrepancy and has been working with our voting system vendor, ES&S, to resolve the issue,” they wrote.
“Elections are fundamental to our democracy. The process has been challenging, but working together with both parties, we will ensure that every Chester County legally-cast vote has been counted.”
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