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Judge Rules Against the Chester County GOP in Election Lawsuit

Late Monday afternoon Common Pleas Judge Anthony Verwey ruled against the Chester County Republican Committee, which had asked for an injunction to prevent ballots harvested from a nursing home to be counted in Tuesday’s primary.

The judge also denied the party’s request to reverse a county Board of Elections ruling that GOP committee members cannot act as poll watchers in their own precincts. The Republicans also objected to the reapportionment of wards in Phoenixville. They are concerned that the Board of Elections gave them insufficient notice of these ward changes in the borough for committee members to gather signatures.

They further argued that the long-term care facility was not a single household, as election law requires, so one person could not legally gather ballots from many residents there.

“The injunction proposed in this matter would disenfranchise and, therefore, harm voters who are unable to submit their ballots on their own and have already provided their mail-in ballot to a single designated agent,” the judge wrote.

Chester County GOP Chair Dr. Raffi Terzian said, “We are disappointed, and quite frankly surprised, with the outcome of the ruling today. During this election cycle, with all eyes on Pennsylvania, it should be of paramount interest to all voters that there be fairness in the electoral process, and this is precisely what we asked for today.

“Our goals are to promote transparency and accountability, to help restore confidence in the integrity of the election process and to make sure that citizens are provided with appropriate notice of actions taken by county government. Unfortunately, it appears that there remains a double standard which is tilted against Republicans,” Terzian said.

Rebecca Brain, a spokeswoman for Chester County, said, “Chester County and its leadership and staff in Voter Services are dedicated to running safe and secure elections, and the County remains committed to open communication and transparency, not just with voters, but with representatives of all parties.”

When DVJournal asked her why it was okay for Commissioner Marian Moskowitz to serve on the Board of Elections while she was a candidate, Brain said, “Marian Moskowitz is running for a party position, and the Election Code does not prohibit a member of a Board of Elections from running for a party position.”

Moskowitz is running to be a delegate to the National Democratic Convention.

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Judge Slaps an Injunction on Delaware County Dems Over Election Board Change

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.

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Delco Republicans Sue County Council Over Changes to Election Code

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty. 

Republicans filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Delaware County Council for changes the council made to the election code dealing with how members of the minority political party are appointed to the county election board.

In January, the Delco county council passed an ordinance giving the sitting council far wider latitude to choose that minority-party member, which Republicans say is an illegal power grab.

State law provides that all counties (except those of the first class) shall have an elections board. The same statute also provides that the majority political party must also appoint a representative from a minority party to the elections board.

Democrats first won a 3–2 majority of the five council seats in 2019, and currently enjoy a 5–0 majority.

The state law also says where there is no minority-party representation on the elections board, the county shall, “appoint such representation from a list submitted by the county chairman of the minority party.”

The new county ordinance, however, says the chair of the minority party will submit a list of three people as candidates for the seat on the elections board, but the Delco county council “may reject such list and request a new list of nominees.”

Another section of the new county ordinance says if the minority party does not submit its list of three nominees in 30 days, “Council may appoint any member of the minority party.”

Republicans say both these changes cut against the state law.

“Under the Pennsylvania Election Code, the Council cannot ‘reject’ a nomination from the minority party chairman or make their own minority nomination and appointment,” the lawsuit says.

The suit asks for a judgment from the court affirming the idea that the county chairperson “has the sole authority to nominate the minority member of the board of elections, who the County Council shall appoint.”

A request for comment to the county was not immediately returned.

In February, shortly after the ordinance was passed, county spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky told Broad + Liberty, “The Delaware County Charter gives the County council unfettered discretion over who to select as the minority party member of the election board.”

“Both the County Solicitor and the Solicitor for the Election Board have reviewed the amended ordinance regarding the appointment of the minority party member of the election board and are confident it is consistent with state law,” Marofsky said at the time.

But Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Frank Agovino obviously disagrees.

“The foundation of democracy rests upon free and fair elections. In Pennsylvania, minority parties have the right to have members on county election boards to act as a crucial check on the majority party and to ensure elections are fair and transparent. The Delaware County Democrats are violating the law in a blatant power grab by trying to deny the minority party this right,” Agovino said in a statement.

“Elections produce partisan outcomes; however, the process of administering and certifying them should be bipartisan. The Delco GOP is seeking to uphold basic principles of fairness and transparency to protect whoever the minority is now and in the future,” Agovino added.

The complaint also notes that the term of the current Republican member of the elections board, John McBlain, is set to expire in December, meaning the issue of how a minority member will be appointed to replace him will be directly at issue at that time.

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