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Former Towamencin Supervisor Marino Will Not Appeal Decision in Ballot Case

Despite receiving the most eligible votes in last November’s election, Richard Marino III will not be serving as a Towamencin Township supervisor.

Marino, the incumbent, tied with his challenger, Kofi Osei, and so the race was decided by Osei picking the winning tile in a tiebreaker at Montgomery County Courthouse.

But that tie was based on including improperly-dated ballots in the total. Osei received five of those ballots and Marino one.

Last month, in a landmark case in election integrity, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that mail-in ballots must have a correct date and the voter’s signature to be counted, as per Pennsylvania law. In other words, the six ballots in question should not have been counted.

That overruled a previous court ruling that found ballots from eligible voters did not need to have a handwritten or correct date on the envelopes.

The Third Circuit decision gave Marino hope that he would prevail in the Commonwealth Court.  But on April 8, that court ruled against him, and he decided not to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In a Facebook post thanking his supporters, Marino said, “Ironically, according to both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the man now sitting on the Board of Supervisors in my place did not win the election.

“Yet he will retain his seat due to a November ruling by a federal judge that has since been overturned and because our petition, in the eyes of the Commonwealth Court, was filed two days late. I’m sorry, but it just does not seem like a just outcome for the voters of Towamencin. That being said, I am not going to appeal beyond this.

“Given the makeup of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, I have no reason to believe that they would render a verdict any different than that of the Commonwealth Court,” Marino concluded.

Marino is a Republican, while the Democrat majority in the state Supreme Court has earned a reputation for its partisanship.

Osei said, “I’m glad we’re finally able to put the 2023 election behind us. I really hope Towamencin can come together after a few contentious years.

“I supported the Marino camp’s right to seek legal relief as these sorts of things tend to happen in close elections, and I really can’t promise I wouldn’t have done something similar had the four-vote margin remained. I do, however, want to push back on their characterization of what happened.

“I have not attempted to intervene in the federal lawsuits surrounding misdated ballots, so I’m unsure why Marino’s camp consistently characterizes the (federal court) ruling as ‘interference.’ Counting the ballots was legal and arguably mandated at the time of certification. The state law conflicts with the federal law, and per our Constitution, federal law preempts state law.”

And Osei said it’s time for the state legislature to fix this legal pothole.

“This specific provision of Act 77 has been legally controversial since its inception, and I’m unsure why the General Assembly doesn’t simply remove it as the election officials don’t use it at all. If we want confidence in our elections, we need to remove this type of legal liability,” Osei said.

At the same time, Osei isn’t apologizing for how he won.

“I have now won three electoral contests in as many attempts. The Towamencin Republican Party hasn’t earned the right to run sloppy campaigns versus me, and I’m taking this last win with no caveats,” Osei said.

However, the issue may not be over yet.

The plaintiffs in the voting lawsuit, led by the ACLU, have filed an appeal asking the full Third Circuit to consider the case and rule. A decision is not expected before the April 23 primary.


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Osei Wins Tiebreaker in Towamencin Supervisor Race, Holds Off on Declaring Victory

Kofi Osei picked the winning tile after a tie with incumbent Rich Marino for Towamencin supervisor in the Nov. 7, 2023 election.

The tie occurred after mail-in ballots that had previously been set aside were added due to a federal judge’s decision. On Nov. 28, Judge Susan Baxter of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that undated or mail-in ballots with the wrong date should be counted. This brought many county boards of elections that were in the midst of certifying their elections to a halt, including Montgomery County, which is now slated to certify its results on Dec. 4.

“The drawing occurred (Thursday) at 12 p.m. Candidates selected tiles number up to 30. The person who selected the lower number is the winner. The drawing was done alphabetically by last name. Marino picked 28, and Osei selected 15. Osei won,”  said Megan Alt, Montgomery County spokesperson.

However, Marino is considering whether to challenge the result.

“My feeling is at this point is that I did not lose the election,” said Marino, a Republican. “I just picked the wrong number. Moving on to where this goes…  from the feedback I am getting, this court decision changing the rules after election day and after voters had cast their ballots does not sit well with a lot of people.  I feel I owe it to them as well as those that supported me to pursue the options that are available to me.   In addition, there is strong sentiment that this is an issue that needs to be resolved before the 2024 election.  Given that, I see an appeal of some sort down the road.”

Osei rose to prominence by leading Neighbors Against Privatization Efforts (NOPE), a group that opposed selling the township’s sewer system to a private company.  He then spearheaded a successful referendum to change Towamencin’s charter to home rule in order to try to block the sewer sale.

The Democrat is not rushing to declare victory.

“First thing is first, I am not going to declare myself the winner until I am certified as such. Rich has some options to challenge the result, and I respect his right to do so,” said Osei. “This is the 2nd time a Towamencin supervisor race has been uncertain due to the way votes by mail are processed, and Act 77 has been subject to lawsuits ever since it was passed in 2019. I would urge the general assembly to clarify the law prior to the 2024 election by removing the date requirement and allowing pre-canvassing of the ballots.

“I am very excited to have so much support in Towamencin versus an incumbent, regardless of what ultimately happens. It has been a contentious few years in Towamencin because of the proposed sewer sale, and ending in a tie feels poetic. We have a lot of work to do in Towamencin between our comprehensive plan and the North Penn High School renovations, and I hope we can start to sew some of the divisions that came up. We had a very high turnout for a municipal election, and I hope more people continue to follow municipal government,” Osei said.

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Kofi Osei Leads a Successful Home Rule Charter Effort in Towamencin

Kofi Osei, one of a slate of candidates from Towamencin NOPE (Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts), led the successful effort for voters to approve a Government Study Commission in Towamencin to recommend whether the township should adopt a “home rule” charter.

NOPE opposed the sale of the township’s sewers.

Towamencin NOPE is a group of Towamencin residents who opposed the sale of the sewer system. Members are Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, who worked together towards a shared vision of keeping control of the sewer system and sewer rates.

While affiliated with other local, grass-roots NOPE groups in Bucks County, Conshohocken, and Norristown that share the same ideas and values, Towamencin citizens are in charge of Towamencin NOPE.

“I was looking through the Township website to find out what our trial plan was like and noticed that we were exploring sewer monetization,” Osei said. “I have read about what had happened in other municipalities and reached out to David McMahon, who started the first NOPE group in Norristown.”

McMahon and Osei are both members of the Buxmont Branch of the Democratic Socialists of America. Osei has been in Towamencin for 26 years and many of his friends and family are still around.

“I wanted to get involved first and foremost because Towamencin is where I grew up, and I did not want to see my friends and family sold out to some big utility company,” Osei added. “The more I read about water/sewer privatization, and specifically the ‘fair market’ valuation method PA uses, the less I thought it was a good idea and wanted to make sure the people of Towamencin knew what was going on before they eventually get the bill a few years later.”

Osei, 29, one of seven individuals, will serve on the Government Study Commission, which evaluates how well-run the local government is and solicit feedback from residents.

Before promoting the commission, Osei went to township meetings for a year and was appalled that a governing body could so blatantly ignore facts and constituent opinion on such a huge decision. Osei wanted to make a charter where that would never happen again.

“I believe home rule has the potential to stop the sewer sale. I do not see any merits in fully privatizing water/wastewater utilities. I believe a charter precluding the township from selling such utilities would be the best,” Osei said. “Some other municipal charters in other states have similar privatization bans. Besides the sewer sale, Pennsylvania has very weak citizen provision, and the only way to get a broad referendum right in PA is to have a home rule charter that gives citizens that right.

“If the government study commission writes a charter that stops the sewer sale and adds referendum options, I hope Towamencin voters will be responsive in a future election,” Osei added.

In other services to the community, Osei was involved in the KEY club at his high school, where he volunteered for many events held in the area.

Osei completed his undergraduate degree in Computational and Applied Mathematics from West Chester and works as an actuarial analyst in health insurance. While Osei was not politically active before NOPE, he hopes to stay involved locally.

“I have no strong plans currently. This non-partisan, issue-focused, and hyper-local type of politics has been much more enjoyable than a lot of the partisan stuff at the state/federal end,” Osei said. “I perceive a need for the General Assembly to reform our utility laws, especially with how messy the Chester Water Authority and DELCORA situations are.”

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