‘A theft of taxpayer resources’: Delco still paying to fend off election fraud lawsuits from 2020

Election workers check ballots one last time before sending them to be scanned and counted in the West Chester University gym.

Election workers check ballots one last time before sending them to be scanned and counted in Pennsylvania in November 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Remember those four Pennsylvania counties that helped deliver President Joe Biden a victory during the 2020 election?

In the immediate days following Election Day, Philadelphia’s collar counties were the center of national attention as the vote count continued to add up.

One of those counties is still dealing with the legal fallout from the baseless election fraud lawsuits that followed the election.

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Delaware County has been in and out court fighting off 15 lawsuits focused on claims of fraud regarding its vote counting methods.

While the county has a pristine 15-0 record in the courtroom, county solicitor Bill Martin said, all of that winning comes at a cost.

From election recount litigation to lawsuits from President Donald Trump’s campaign, the county has had to argue every single one. And it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside counsel to help with the effort.

Delaware County Councilmember Kevin Madden called the ongoing lawsuits a “drain” on taxpayer resources.

“It also just consumes the oxygen in the room. It’s something that we have to be dealing with and talking about. And when you only have so much time and energy and resources that we have, putting them into frivolous lawsuits that have been dismissed over and over and over again, and have no basis in fact, is a theft of taxpayer resources,” Madden said.

How claims of election fraud started in Delco

It initially started as a small dispute immediately after the election between the county and several county Republican leaders.

The matter at hand was the level of access that the county was providing to the election center. Delaware County Solicitor Bill Martin said that it was “pretty readily resolved.”

“But notwithstanding that resolution, there was an attempt made about a month and a half thereafter by three individuals — one of whom was a defeated Republican candidate — to intervene in the lawsuit. And in connection with that effort, they had a host of groundless allegations regarding alleged fraud and errors in the processing of the election results,” Martin said.

The matter went through several levels of litigation. The attempts to intervene were dismissed. Martin said the party filed a new motion restating the same claims. The court dismissed it, as well.

He described what the county is facing in just this one lawsuit as “a kitchen sink of false allegations regarding the election.” However, this fight is still not over.

“We still have the third iteration of this lawsuit involving fraud allegations relating to the 2020 election and some events after and we’re still fighting it in two forms. We’re fighting the motion to reconsider in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas and we’re fighting the appeal in Commonwealth Court,” Martin said.

And that’s just one example.

How Delco is preparing for 2022 midterm election

With the 2022 election just months away, Delaware County officials are preparing for yet another round of legal battles.

There is ongoing coordination between Martin’s office and the county Election Bureau to ensure that all procedures are up to date.

“We will, prior to general Election Day, line up essentially a team of attorneys who will be available at the courthouse to respond to any particular circumstances that could crop up during the course of the day — but we’ll be ready for any eventualities,” Martin said.

For the past few months, Madden said, Delaware County Council meetings have been sidetracked by residents looking to undermine the credibility of the election. He believes that the impact of 2020 election deniers is very real.

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Unless the country has “found some way out of this hole,” Madden is worried that 2022 might be a repeat of the 2020 election.

“The folks who choose to believe that 2020 was a stolen election, even if they were to personally witness every single voter in Delaware County voting with ID in hand, and then they personally tabulate it, they’d still find a reason to dismiss the results, if they didn’t go their way,” Madden said. “That’s just unfortunately the sad reality that we live in.”

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