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Delco Candidate Demands to See Mail-In Ballot Envelopes

The results of the May 16 primary are slated to be certified Thursday, June 1.

Not so fast, says Joy Schwartz, a Republican candidate for Delaware County Council.

She requested permission to count the envelopes that the mail-in ballots were sent in. The county denied that request, despite what she claims is clear language under Act 77, the 2019 law that permits mail-in voting.

“They’ve basically denied people those records for five or six different election cycles,” said Schwartz. “In 2020 twice, twice in 2021, twice in 2022, and now again in 2023. So, I am a candidate, running unopposed (in the primary), but I wanted to get ahead of this now because I don’t want to have this fight in November, after the fact.”

Her representative, who was present during ballot “canvassing” at the county warehouse, told her the stack of mail-in ballots was much higher than the stack of envelopes those ballots came in.

“I want to see if the number of outer envelopes matches the number of mail-in ballots,” said Schwartz. “If they have fewer envelopes than mail-in ballots, that’s a huge problem. That has to be investigated.”

But, Schwartz said, she does not have to give a reason to look at the envelopes since those are public records.

John McBlain, a member of the county Election Board and a lawyer, wrote to  County Elections Director James Allen, saying, “25 PS Section 2648 indicates the Board must keep its records open to public inspection and allow for inspections of the records’ during ordinary business hours, at any time when they [the records] are not necessarily being used by the board, or its employees having duties to perform thereto.’

“I do not believe these envelopes are in use by the Board or our employees at this time,” McBlain added.

“Second, it is irrelevant what the motivation is for wanting to examine records. The Board’s response to a statutory duty should not be formed by whether we believe the motivation for the request is valid or supported by a factual basis.

“I, too, have expressed to the requestor that I have no reason to believe the underlying premise that a voluminous amount of mail-in ballots were added and/or that there were a number of mail-in ballots processed that did not arrive in outer envelopes. Nonetheless, it is the public’s right to examine the Board’s documents even if the Board believes such an exercise is a fool’s errand. I believe the Board should make its records as transparent as possible, especially to disprove any unsubstantiated gossip,” McBlain wrote.

McBlain, the minority Republican member, did not respond when DVJournal asked whether he planned to vote to certify the results.

“I’m concerned. I’m exercising my right to see those records,” said Schwartz, a retired American history and civics teacher who taught in the William Penn School District.

Allen disagreed with Schwartz’s interpretation of the law and told her via email that the county made the online mail-in voter list available through the Department of State.

“As an authorized representative, you do not have access to go through the envelopes, which is consistent with the directive from the Department of State that you possess and presented to me in an earlier email.

“The following are among the reasons this request to go through the envelopes at this time is being denied: As Mr. Agovino noted, we are extremely busy and have various tasks to complete as part of the canvass leading up to the certification on Thursday. We do not have the staff to sit one-on-one with you or any other individuals who want to participate.”

Also, “we have one pending recount, and we have other matters that may result in recounts, and we cannot disturb the election materials prior to the completion of (1) the canvass and certification and (2) any necessary recounts. That would be patently unfair to the candidates and would violate basic standards that those campaigns should expect for chain of custody prior to the certification. The deadline was May 12 to file objections to any absentee or mail-in ballots. The review of the physical envelopes serves no legally required function at this time and is not part of the section of Act 77 that you clearly misquoted,” Allen said.

Allen told Schwartz that she could look at the envelopes after the election was certified.

“So, this is their modus operandi, to operate in the dark and to keep people out,” said Schwartz. “It’s got to be challenged.”

Asked to respond, a county spokeswoman said, “The county continues to comply with all requirements of state law. The candidate is misinterpreting the relevant sections of Act 77 and the Election Code.”

Parties Endorse Delaware County Council Candidates for Primary

Delaware County Democrats and Republicans have endorsed candidates for the upcoming primary on May 16.

The council Democratic committee endorsed incumbents Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D., Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, and Councilwoman Christine Reuther. The three were first elected in 2019 in a historic Democratic sweep of council seats.

The Republican committee endorsed Joy Schwartz, Jeff Jones, and Upland Borough Mayor Bill Dennon for the county council.

Schwartz, a Drexel Hill resident, is a retired history teacher who worked for more than 20 years in the William Penn School District. She is running against the Democratic council’s policies that she believes have failed local communities.

Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D.

“If elected, I will lead the charge for common sense, fiscal sanity, safe streets, elections conducted in accordance with administrative code, and the reversal of the progressive agendas that are destroying Delco,” said Schwartz.

Jones, of Upper Darby, is an insurance industry professional and has been active in the community as a youth sports coach. He also served on the Upper Darby Economic Development Committee.

“Our current county council is not delivering on the things that are important to the health, safety, and welfare of our neighbors,” said Jones. “They lack transparency, take no administrative responsibility, and have been fiscally irresponsible with our tax dollars. If we do not rein them in now, the course they have the county heading on will lead to a devastating failure.”

Dennon, who has served as Upland’s mayor for five years, is a maintenance mechanic. He is involved in activities recognizing and honoring veterans. He also served as a site coordinator for the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association annual stream cleanup.

Christine Reuther

“It is time for a change, and Delaware County cannot afford any more one-party Democratic rule,” said Dennon. “We need to restore accountability, fiscal responsibility, and sound leadership to Delaware County.”

“Under the Democrats’ one-party rule, Delaware County is facing unprecedented challenges: Closed hospitals and a lack of EMS services; a looming county tax increase; a deteriorating county financial position partisanship that prevents equal access to services, and changes to the county administrative code that has shutout Republicans from participating in the oversight of elections,” said Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County Republican Party. “We want to ensure our county government operates effectively and fairly while also ensuring a brighter future for all Delaware County residents.”

Taylor is a professor and program director in the kinesiology department at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia. In addition to her teaching, research, and administrative duties, she works on community outreach projects to educate high school students about potential future careers in the healthcare industry. She spearheaded a project in Philadelphia elementary schools to introduce young students to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

Elaine Schaefer

Taylor, who formerly served on the Upper Darby School Board, lives with her husband and two daughters in Upper Darby.

Schaefer, a lawyer and former Radnor Township commissioner co-founded the Radnor Conservancy. She is the executive director of the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area. Schaefer and her husband, John, are the parents of three children.

Also a lawyer, Reuther is “of counsel” to the Devon law firm McCausland Keen and Buckman. She is vice president of the Child Guidance Resource Centers board, a community mental and behavioral health service provider. She is a former Nether Providence commissioner, serves as the Nether Providence representative on the board of directors of the Central Delaware County Authority, and is the Rutledge Borough solicitor. She lives in Wallingford with her husband. They also raised three children.

The Democrats’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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