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Election vote recount petitions denied

Stickers are pictured during the primary election at the Orchard Hill Church on Tuesday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle 5/17/22

Six petitions from county voters seeking a court-ordered recount of the votes cast in Nov. 8 state and federal election races have been dismissed.

All of the petitions contend that fraud or error was committed in the computation of votes or the marking of ballots, and wanted a recount.

The petitions were filed in civil court after the election, and hearings for each of the petitions were held or scheduled Nov. 22. Judge S. Micheal Yeager issued orders dismissing each petition on Nov. 23.

“This is a concerted effort across the Commonwealth,” said county solicitor Wil White, who argued against the petitions in county court. He said he knows of similar petitions filed in Beaver, Forest and other counties.

Petitioners in two of the county petitions identified themselves as Republican voters. The other petitioners didn’t identify their party, but some are affiliated with the Butler County Republican Committee.

Four of the petitions sought a recount of the votes cast for governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate. One petition sought a recount of votes in those races and the U.S. House of Representatives 16th District race, and one asks for recounts of all of those races and 8th District in the state House of Representatives.

The petitions appear to be part of an effort to have votes recounted in multiple counties in the state. None of the petitions filed in Butler County single out the governor’s race, but published reports say that race is the primary target of the effort that saw more than 100 petitions filed in at least a dozen counties.

Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro defeated Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano in the governor’s race by 787,529 votes. The Department of State’s tally count shows 3,021,019 votes for Shapiro and 2,233,490 votes for Mastriano. In the county, Mastriano received 51,546 votes and Shapiro received 40,065.

White said the push for a recount is being seen across the state.

The six county petitions in Butler County are similar, but not exactly the same, White said.

“They were all thrown out for procedural deficiencies, filing deficiencies or technical deficiencies, but not for the same reason,” White said.

State law requires three registered voters to sign a recount petition, but only one signed one of the petitions, he said. In another case, the petitioners didn’t show up for the Nov. 22 arguments hearing, he said.

Three petitioners in separate petitions were election officials who worked at precincts, signed the results and delivered the results to the Election Bureau after the polls closed, he said.

In those three cases, White said his opposition argument centered on the legal principle of “equitable estoppel,” which deals with alleged false representations. That principle applies to the recount cases because those three petitioners made a statement and then made a statement contrary to the first statement by asserting the results were accurate and then asking for a recount, White said. He called those cases “incredulous.”

All the petitioners represented themselves without attorneys, he added.

Had the petitioners been successful, the court could have ordered a recount, but couldn’t order the county to conduct the recount by hand, White said. He said he believes hand recounts were the objectives of the statewide and local petitions, but state law give counties to the authority to conduct elections and count votes.

A Beaver County judge granted a recount petition, but did denied a request for it to be done by hand, he said.

Separately, White said the bureau has completed the county vote count and will submit to the Department of State for certification by Monday’s deadline.

“We have our final tally. We are in the process of submitting those numbers to the state by Monday,” he said.

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