A Downingtown Area School Board election dispute may determine the standing of Pennsylvania’s law regarding mail-in ballot errors.
At issue is whether election officials should follow the letter of the law or allow some leeway in counting problematic mail-in votes. Sam Stretton, a lawyer for Area 4 Democrat candidate Rebecca Britton told Delaware Valley Journal he is appealing a divided Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court.
“It’s a very important issue,” said Stretton. And it not only affects his client, but will clarify election law statewide. “In election law we lean toward a liberal interpretation to protect the right to vote. There’s no evidence of fraud.”
Not so fast, says Michael Taylor, who represents Republican candidate Margie Miller, who will be the winner without the six disputed ballots.
Taylor said that the Commonwealth Court panel has correctly “affirmed the decision of the Chester County Board of Elections to disqualify the six ballots.”
While a recent ruling had three different opinions, a majority of the judges ruled the ballots should be thrown out, he said.
“Our elections are the bedrock of our republic and must be governed by the rule of law,” said Taylor. “Every vote that is legally cast should be counted. That is what was done in this school board race, and Margie Miller is the new director to the Downingtown School Board. Margie has won the contest at the Board of Elections, the Court of Common Pleas, and now, the Commonwealth Court. However, we have sadly heard that Rebecca Britton will now ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the election.
“Ms. Britton’s decision to continue with these legal challenges does a disservice to the citizens of Region 4,” said Taylor. “DASD is in the process of deciding many major issues. Besides dealing with the surge in COVID, the school district is deciding whether to build a new school or refurbish others. Region 4 is not at the discussions or able to cast a vote while Ms. Britton continues with these legal fights. The Miller campaign is weighing its options.”
Miller said, “With only four votes separating my opponent and myself, this has been quite a journey and an education. I am a teacher, not a politician. My intention upon running was to be an advocate for our children and a voice for the residents of region 4. At this moment, there is no voice nor representation for region 4. With the election uncertified and being appealed at the State level, my constituents are left with no vote or say in any matters or plans pertaining to DASD. It is a case of taxation without representation. Although I receive correspondence and calls from constituents, I have to answer as Director-Elect. I encourage them to write to all board members as I am unable to speak for them at this time.
“I enjoy connecting and emailing with the people of Downingtown. Th1ey are very candid, concerned, and truly want what is best for our community,” she said. “They also thank me profusely for responding to them – they appreciate knowing that they are heard. The people of region 4 have spoken – I won in November, I won at the county level, and I won in Commonwealth Court. Patience is my mantra.
“I cannot wait to serve the residents of region 4,” Miller added. “I respect and thank the judges who have given their expertise and verdicts thus far. I respect and thank all of my many supporters who are eager to witness my swearing-in. I am confident this will come to fruition in a prompt manner.”
Britton declined to comment.