A Delaware County judge ruled Wednesday the county council overstepped its authority earlier this year when it passed an ordinance allowing the council to reject Republican nominees to the county’s bipartisan election board.

According to state law, county election boards must have members of both the majority party and the minority party. In order to achieve this, the law also says when there is no minority party representation on the elections board, the county shall appoint someone “from a list submitted by the county chairman of the minority party.”

The ordinance passed by the Democratic council in January essentially said that if council didn’t like the list submitted by the minority party, it could reject all of those candidates and order the minority party to create a new list.

When filing the lawsuit in June, Republicans said the council was engaged in an illegal power grab. Common Pleas Judge James Bradley now agrees.

“[T]he current Ordinance impermissibly affords Delaware County Council a veto power over the minority party chair’s nomination to the Board of Elections which unduly expands the powers conferred upon Council by the Election Code,” Bradley wrote in his four-page opinion.

A spokeswoman for the county said given that the lawsuit only came down this morning, its lawyers are still analyzing the ruling and that no decision on an appeal has been made.

When the issue first arose ten months ago, the county said it had “unfettered discretion over who to select as the minority party member of the election board.”

“Both the County Solicitor and the Solicitor for the Election Board have reviewed the amended ordinance regarding the appointment of the minority party member of the election board and are confident it is consistent with state law,” county spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky told Broad + Liberty in early February.

Republicans felt triumphant at the news of the ruling.

“The Ordinance was an arrogant attempt by County Council to create a veto power for themselves to block the right of the Delaware County Republican Party Chairman to nominate his preferred member to the Delaware County Board of Elections,” said attorney Wally Zimolong. 

“The Pennsylvania Election Code is clear. It guarantees minority party representation on the board and gives the local party chairman the sole authority to appoint that minority member,” Zimolong added. “Thankfully, the court put an end to this illegal attempted power grab by the Delaware County Democrats.”

When Republicans sued in June, the county council did not respond to a request for comment to Broad + Liberty. The council did, however, give a statement to the Delaware County Daily Times, and said the GOP was just playing politics.

“Interestingly, the Delco GOP public statements on this case suggests [sic] a ‘blatant power grab.’” the statement said. “However, the change in law which is being challenged was passed on January 17, 2023. Now, more than five months later, has the lawsuit [sic] been filed. It appears less an effort to secure a fair election, and more a weak effort to develop a talking point for an upcoming county election.”

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd@broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports@protonmail.com. @shepherdreports

2 thoughts on “Delco judge rejects county’s claim of ‘unfettered discretion’ over minority party election board members”

  1. Excellent! Congratulations to the Delco GOP, to Chair Agovino, and to Attorney Wally Zimolong. Thankfully, Judge Bradley saw this blatant power grab for what exactly what it was and called it out. Admittedly, the Delco GOP was a bit slow pokey to respond with its lawsuit against the county, but they did the right thing to fight back.

    Everyday citizens were not slow. A group of election integrity activists that attend Delco Council meetings regularly became aware of the vile, sneaky, and underhanded change to the county ordinance back in January of 2023. They were the ones that informed the Delco GOP that the county had clandestinely asserted veto power over the GOP chair’s nominations to the Board of Elections.

    The GOP leaders had not been notified about the change and may not have known about it had it not been for vigilant citizens. I was present in the Delco Council meeting when Councilwoman Christine Reuther announced the cynical change. She called it, “Just a little housekeeping.”

    The veto of minority party selections to the BOE is only one of the very concerning changes to the county election ordinance. There is another very critical matter the county has manipulated involving a post-election, pre-certification audit of elections. The county has made sure that results of their audit are not published and that any results are not considered by the BOE prior to certification of elections. The county MUST be challenged on this issue in the courts as it is an even more egregious power grab than vetoing minority party selections, IMO.

    Furthermore, the members of Delco Council, along with county department heads and solicitors, are vigorously and systematically restructuring and dismantling the Delco Administrative Code in other unconstitutional and nefarious ways. Christine Reuther made this statement to the Daily Times last February, “Our laws are like good contracts and agreements,” Reuther said. “If they’re not living documents that we don’t revisit on a regular basis to make sure that they’re still working, then they become fossils and people start working around them and they don’t have any real value to how we operate any more.” Really Christine? Is that how you feel about the Bill of Rights as well? This is who wet are dealing with folks!

    I ran for Delco Council last year to do what I could to try and stop the tidal wave of single party, Marxist progressive reforms that are being imposed on us in Delco. Now that they perceive that they have a mandate, the 5 far-left democrats on the Delco Council will pull out all the stops, unless we the citizens rise up and put limits on their power. Please do your part to fight for our communities and our county.

  2. Now that the judge ruled in favor of the GOP, Chair Agovino needs to appoint a true watchdog who will have the courage to do what it takes to stop the people who are running Delco elections from putting their thumb on the scale.

Leave a (Respectful) Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *