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Citizens Find Problems with Chester County Voting Rolls

With the Nov. 7 general election only months away, a group of Chester County residents recently gave the Board of Elections information about problems with the voter rolls.

The issues they found included 144 registered voters who moved to different states or counties yet were still listed as voters. The voters were found to have moved to California, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, and South Carolina.

Working in pairs, the residents visited homes using information from the National Change of Address (NCOA) database.

Of the names and addresses visited, they found 70 percent had moved away. They talked to current residents and neighbors to determine if the registered voter they sought lived at the address listed.

The volunteers later used information from the real estate Multiple Listing Service and other online data to confirm their findings.

They also estimated that another 2,180 people who could vote in Chester County no longer live there. And 30 active voters who moved from Pocopson precinct 530 were also included.

“In our review of the voter registration system, we have found the process woefully in need of reform,” the residents wrote in a letter to the Board of Elections. “Chester County has displayed a pattern of only performing statutory duties when threatened with a lawsuit.”

One person involved in the effort, Diane Houser, said the residents decided to investigate after learning that people on the voter rolls but no longer living in the county could have voted in 2022 in Chester County by mail. If no one answered the door when they canvassed, she said, they talked to neighbors who often knew whether a family had moved.

“We are just a group of concerned citizens,” said Houser. They started with about seven people. More joined them. “We’ve been sharing our concerns with the county.”

Because two Common Pleas judges now sit on the Board of Elections, Houser said she hopes they will be receptive to improving the voter rolls. This year the BOE includes Judge Bret Binder, Judge Analisa Sondergaard, and Commissioner Michelle Kichline.

In 2019, the watchdog group Judicial Watch sent Chester County officials a letter noting its voting rolls needed to be updated and violated various statutes.

“The county reported removing only five voter registrations in the last two-year reporting period on the grounds that the registrants failed to respond to an address confirmation notice and failed to vote in two consecutive federal elections,” Judicial Watch wrote. “This is an absurdly low number for a county of this size.” The county also has a 97 percent voter registration rate.

Similarly, in 2021, Judicial Watch notified the county of voting violations, including more registered voters (100.86 percent) than citizens old enough to vote. And a 2021 study of state representative districts by Douglas Frank, Ph.D., showed that nearly 100 percent of the elderly are registered to vote and are voting.

“We want to wake people up and let them know what we’ve uncovered,” Houser said.

“Board of Elections is reviewing the information provided in the letter,” said county spokeswoman Rebecca Brain.

Separately, a group called Chesco United found 66 Chester County voters registered before they were born; 166 people voted before they were registered; 3,300 voters lived in apartment buildings but had no apartment number; 13 voters lived in commercial office buildings; 40 voters lived at U.S. Post Office addresses; and 46 voters lived at a hotel for more than a year.

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