This could make voters confused about the validity of the election, tie up state courts, and slow down auditing and certifying the results. By 14%, Mastriano lost. Mastriano lost badly.
Some of his fans think the results are wrong and say they know what to do about it. Under a little-known law, groups that don’t want people to vote are sending a lot of requests to Pennsylvania courts to force manual recounts.
Some courts have already turned down motions to get counties to retally vote, so it’s not clear if the campaign to get counties to retally vote will work. Even if it does, it won’t give Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor who lost to Democrat Josh Shapiro, the 781,000 votes he lost. Election results rarely change after a recount.
Unfounded actions could spread doubt about the election this month, tie up state courts, and make it harder for officials to check and certify the results by Monday’s deadline. It’s the latest front for an election-denying group that helped Mastriano get known by taking advantage of flaws in the way the state votes.
According to interviews and court records, the groups that got together through social media turned more than 100 petitions in at least a dozen counties in the last week. There were petitions from at least 17 more counties, but the records aren’t available.
Petitioners usually use the same standard legal form with blank spaces. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which is in charge of overseeing elections, said that the plans to delay county-level vote certification were an attempt to ignore what the people wanted.
If three voters pay $50 and file a petition in county court claiming “fraud or error,” the results of a precinct can be re-counted. Rarely. Adam Bonin, a Democratic election lawyer, has used it to force recounts in races for school boards and township commissioners that were very close.
In single-digit races for local government, Bonin said, you want to make sure that every machine’s results were typed in exactly, that every paper ballot was scanned correctly, and that there were no math mistakes made by accident.
Officials in charge of elections have been worried for years that bad people could use the law as a weapon in state or national elections. Last week, local election officials found out that groups that don’t like the results of an election were using recount petitions in a big way.
One county elections director said it was “nonsense on a merry-go-round.” Thursday, 18 requests for a recount were sent to Bucks County. Friday, voters in Allegheny County turned in 12 forms. In two days, 37 people arrived in Montgomery County.
In Berks County, 30 more were set up by the Pennsylvania Liberty Fund. “It’s a lot of the same groups and people,” said Sean D. Drasher, who is in charge of elections in Lebanon County. “They’re using the law to slow us down,” Drasher said that the same person dropped them both off at the same time.
Few people who signed the petition were ready to say if they were working in groups. Voting machines and poll workers were mentioned by those who did.
Barbara Canete, a Republican from Bucks County, heard about it from “grassroots groups,” which is why she asked for a recount in Bristol Township.
Canete’s petition called for a hand count of the votes in the governor’s race, but others did the same. She thinks things are shady behind the scenes. Online, conservative groups are seeing signs that more people are getting involved.
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We The People of Columbia County, PA put out a “call to action” last week to get people to sign the petition to have the election counted again.
Audit the Vote PA, which has spread rumors about election conspiracies and sided with Mastriano, will pay back the $50 filing fee when it is possible to do so. Karen Taylor, who helped start the group Audit the Vote, filed her petition for a recount.
The deleted Facebook post asked people to send Mastriano’s campaign an email to get forms. The campaign for Mastriano didn’t answer questions.
In Bucks County, a group called “Right for Bucks” and “Audit the Vote” put on a virtual event to get people interested in an “election challenge.” Later, it put online templates for recall petitions.
Most local GOP officials have kept quiet about the effort to have the election counted again because they think it is a crazy idea. The GOP committee in Berks County backs the effort.
Clay Breece, the head of the party, said in a statement that no one says the 2022 election was stolen. “We want a court order to get into the ballot boxes so we can count the paper ballots by hand to make sure the machines are working right.”
Officials and experts say that the most persistent and sneaky attacks on Pennsylvania’s voting system are ones that try to make it more open. When put together, requests for recounts and audits can be too much for election officials to handle.
One official said that requests for public records are like a “denial-of-service” attack, which is when a lot of people visit a website at once. Election officials say that the flood of requests to re-count votes is the latest front.
Dasher said it’s a good way to avoid being responsible and making trouble for county governments. Local election officials have counted the votes, checked their work, and fixed any mistakes.
They have also counted a sample of ballots, as required by state law, and are now doing a statewide “risk-limiting audit,” which is the best way to make sure election results are correct.
Most requests to do a recount are still being heard in county courts. A few cases that went to court turned out well. On Wednesday, a judge in Butler County, H. William White III, denied several requests to recount the votes.
Three of the petitions were filed by poll workers who signed off on the results from their polling place days before filing petitions for a recount claiming “fraud or error” that was not defined. Monday’s decision in Forest County could mean that petitions all over the state will be denied.
Judge Maureen A. Skerda threw out two petitions because of a law that says people who want a recount must show proof of fraud or error or file petitions in every precinct where the election took place. In every precinct, petitions for the governor’s race must be filed, even if there are no specific charges of fraud.
Five days after the election, Mastriano admitted that he had lost by about 15%.
“We’re a long way outside the margin of error,” said Republican Northumberland County Clerk Nathan Savidge. “These are pointless requests from people who can’t accept election results.” Shapiro beat Mastriano very badly.