Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Monday overturned a decision by Chester County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey R. Sommer that had halted recount efforts by eleven voters in the county. The upshot is the original petitions filed by voters concerned about the accuracy of machine counts in the 2022 midterm elections will go forward.
The petitions were filed on November 18, 2022, the day after Chester County completed its vote count, and requested hand recounts of the ballots in question. On Nov. 28, while the petitions were still pending before the trial court, the Democrat-controlled county board of elections certified the results. The Pennsylvania Department of State also joined the county commissioners in challenging the petitions.
Without taking evidence, Judge Sommer dismissed the petitions and allowed the certification to be completed, comparing the petitioners to “the QAnon people.” He said that the petitions could not move forward without including allegations of specific suspected fraud in the precincts in question.
On appeal to the Commonwealth Court, the petitioners claimed that the county and the court had violated the state election code by refusing to allow the hand recount and in inventing the requirement of specific fraud allegations.
The Commonwealth Court agreed. In an opinion by Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon citing a 2003 state Supreme Court opinion, the court noted that under Pennsylvania law and precedent, “it shall not be necessary for the petitioners to specify in their petition the particular act of fraud or error which they believe to have been committed, nor to offer evidence to substantiate the allegations of their petition.”
In a press release following the order, civic group Chesco United called the decision “an historic victory for election transparency and security in Pennsylvania.”
County spokeswoman Rebecca Brain told Broad + Liberty that “the Commonwealth Court ruling about petitions for recount is disappointing, especially in light of the Berks County decision. The Chester County Board of Elections is reviewing the court’s decision before considering the next step.”