A Common Pleas judge ruled on Wednesday against Delaware County over rule changes for appointing a minority member to the Board of Elections.
Judge James P. Bradley granted an injunction sought by Delaware County GOP Chairman Frank Agovino and the Delaware County Republican Party, saying an ordinance passed by the all-Democrat County Council is “null and void” and cannot be enforced.
The council passed an ordinance on Jan. 18 that said it could reject appointments to the Board of Elections made by the Republican Party chairman.
By law, the minority party is entitled to representation on the Board of Elections. The now-moot ordinance said the council could reject a list of three nominees given by the minority party chairman. If they do not provide another list within 30 days, the “Council may appoint any member of the minority party,” the ordinance change said.
“Under the election code, the council shall appoint a minority member to the Board of Elections from a list supplied by Agovino as the minority party chair,” the judge wrote. “The purpose of the election code is to guarantee minority representation on the county Board of Election; however, the current ordinance impermissibly affords Delaware County Council a veto power over the minority party’s nomination to the Board of Elections, which unduly expands the powers conferred upon council by the election code.”
Wally Zimolong, the lawyer representing the Delaware County Republicans, said he was pleased with the decision.
“The ordinance was as lawless as it was arrogant. The Pennsylvania Election Code guarantees minority representation on boards of election and gives the minority party chair the power to appoint the minority member,” Zimolong said. “Here, by giving themselves veto power over the GOP’s nominee, the Delaware County Democrats engaged in an illegal power grab, which the court put to an end. Democrats like to claim they are pillars of democracy in the electoral process; this case shows that is scantly the truth.”
Agovino said, “No one believes that one party rule is democratic. Unfortunately, we reside in a county that is exactly that. The current regime of Five Democrat County Council members chose to thwart the minority party’s only seat within county government by attempting to take away the authority of the Chairman to appoint one member of the Board of Elections.”
“After presenting the evidence in a Court of Law, our desire for fairness was upheld and the authority to appoint will remain with the minority Chairman. While this is a matter for the Republican Party today, someday the pendulum will swing. Ultimately, this is about fairness for all residents of Delaware County and we are thrilled that democracy was victorious today,” he added.
Republican Joy Schwartz, who ran for a seat on the county council in 2023, said, “Congratulations to the Delco GOP, Chair Frank Agovino, and attorney Wally Zimolong for prevailing in their petition against Delaware County Council’s efforts to weaken the process of selection of the minority party’s appointment to the Board of Elections. This is a victory for the rule of law and due process. It places an appropriate check on the otherwise unrestrained power of the majority party in Delaware County and exposes their nefarious power grab and their politicization of elections.”
Schwartz was among a handful of people who questioned the changes to the election code at the Jan. 18 council meeting. At that session, Director of Elections James Allen downplayed the changes to the ordinance as updating “archaic” language. Councilwoman Christine Reuther described them as mere “housekeeping.”
Shwartz praised “Delco Election Deepdivers, a grassroots election integrity group that investigates election procedures,” and brought the changes to the attention of the GOP.
Adrienne Marofsky, a spokeswoman for Delaware County, said county officials are still analyzing the ruling, and no decision has been made on whether to appeal.