‘Courts are not places where one comes to hedge their bets’: Chester County judge dismisses election recount petitions

Chester County Courthouse. (Smallbones/Wikimedia Commons)

Chester County Courthouse. (Smallbones/Wikimedia Commons)

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Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Sommer has denied all of the recount petitions residents filed contesting the validity of the 2022 midterm elections.

The nine “virtually identical” petitions, filed pro se by residents, were a part of an unprecedented number of requests that delayed election certification in several Pennsylvania counties because of concerns of “fraud.”

In a scathing decision rejecting those calls for recounts, Sommer wrote, “they cannot enlist this court in their quest to conduct a free-wheeling audit of cherry-picked precincts in Chester County.”

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Sommer said he would not allow the judicial process to be “abused” and as such dismissed their case with prejudice.

“It is not a forum for the childhood game of ‘I know something you don’t know.’ Nor is such gamesmanship the manner in which the practice of law is to be conducted. The courts are not places where one comes to hedge their bets on an election until they decide they are willing to accept the vote of the electorate,” Sommer wrote.

Chester County was not the lone suburban jurisdiction facing calls for recounts. Jim O’Malley, a spokesperson for Bucks County, said residents had filed roughly 35 petitions with the courts and hearings are scheduled for Dec. 14 and 15.

Bucks County’s Board of Elections has only partially certified the 2022 election results due to provisional ballot challenges in a state House district — and the recount petitions, O’Malley said.

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In Delaware County, there were four recount contests that challenged election results. Adrienne Marofsky, a spokesperson for the county, said county officials believe the petitioners were motivated by a “misguided concern that votes are not accurately tabulated by machines.”

The county agreed with the petitioners to conduct a hand recount in just one of the precincts cited in the legal complaint, and the petitioners dropped their complaints for the other precincts.

Marofsky said the recount will have no impact on the certification or the formal results of any race.

And in Montgomery County, 36 recount petitions are still technically active, but that hasn’t stopped the county from certifying the results already. As such, Montco spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco said the county is filing preliminary objections to have them all dismissed.

Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said Chesco officials already certified their election results and felt comfortable doing so because of a lack of evidence of fraud.

While he is happy about Sommer’s decision and hopes everyone has the opportunity to read it, Maxwell said he feels sorry for the election workers just doing their jobs at the center of these cases.

“To see them being accused of things that just aren’t accurate, it’s disappointing because I know how much they care about their jobs. I know how much they care about doing a good job. And so that’s the part that gets to me a little bit,” Maxwell said.

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