According to the Associated Press, officials in a northeastern Pennsylvania county, where paper shortages caused Election Day ballot problems, were deadlocked Monday on whether to report official vote tallies to the state, effectively preventing their certification of the results.
Two Democratic members of the Luzerne County Board of Elections and Voter Registration voted to certify, both Republicans voted “no” and the fifth member, Democrat Daniel Schramm, abstained.
Alyssa Fusaro, a Republican Luzerne election board member, cited the paper shortage, machine jams, and a lack of voter privacy in voting against certification. Fusaro also said voters were turned away from the polls and normal privacy safeguards for voters were not in place.
“To certify an election, it’s an attestation that we are witnessing the election process and can say that the process was carried out properly and successfully,” she said at the meeting. “Not only have we not carried out a successful election process, but there were several things — we can’t say that this was conducted freely and fairly and that every vote counted.”
Schramm (D), who abstained, said in a phone interview several hours later that after the meeting he received assurances that few if any voters were unable to cast ballots and that all provisional ballots had been counted. He said he planned to vote in favor of certifying the results at a board meeting set for Wednesday.
“I wanted to research to see exactly how many people were just not allowed to vote. I couldn’t find any,” Schramm said.
Monday was the deadline for counties to certify general election results to the state. In a statement, the Department of State said it was contacting Luzerne officials “to inquire about the board’s decision and their intended next steps.”
During public comment before the vote on Monday, people attending the elections board meeting in Wilkes-Barre called the election “rife with disenfranchisement,” requested the election be redone, and called on county election officials to resign.
Luzerne District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce, a Republican who at the election board’s request is investigating why paper ran out at polling places, said in a text Monday that “the investigation is progressing as expected.”
Last week, the Berks County Republican Committee asked multiple precincts to recount their midterm election ballots by hand. They claimed voting machines switched votes from Republican to Democratic candidates.
“A recount is only an investigation,” Committee Chair Clay Breece wrote in a statement. “We are asking for a court order to open the ballot boxes so the paper ballots are manually counted by human beings to verify that the machines are working as advertised.”
County spokesperson Stephanie Weaver said those claims will delay the county’s ability to certify results.
“We have found no evidence to support these claims,” she said. “All of our voting equipment underwent thorough testing prior to Election Day. When we received claims on Election Day, we immediately deployed a machine technician to the precinct to investigate. The machines were tested again at that time and determined to be working properly.”
Berks County plans to challenge the recount requests in court this week.
House Democrat sues Pennsylvania county for not certifying election
According to The Hill, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) sued the elections board in Luzerne County, Pa., on Tuesday after it did not certify its vote canvass over paper shortages at polling places.
The suit, filed by progressive elections firm Elias Law Group and a Pennsylvania-based firm, argued the county was required to certify by Monday under state law, describing it as a “ministerial act” that the board had no discretion to defy.
“Indeed, boards must certify the result of election returns regardless of any error or fraud that is discovered during the count or certification process,” the suit states, noting a Pennsylvania statute that instructs boards to instead file reports about fraudulent or erroneous returns to a district attorney.
Democratic board member Audrey Serniak, who voted to certify, noted stopgap measures on Election Day that allowed people to use provisional and photocopied ballots.
“People are, well, obviously angry, but I can’t see any massive fraud in this,” she said as an attendee shouted, “Liar!”
“I do not see any massive fraud. I don’t see anything that would lead me to disenfranchise the voters here,” Serniak added.
Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz carried the entire county by 9 points over Sen.-elect John Fetterman (D), who won the race.
But Luzerne County voters favored Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D) over Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano by 1 point.