WEST CHESTER, Pa. — The Chester County Board of Elections voted 2-1 Monday to officially certify the results of the 2021 general election.
The vote came after an hour-long public comment period where county residents demanded a forensic audit of the election, citing numerous irregularities in the ballot counting process.
Commissioner Michelle Kichline, the board’s only Republican, had advocated for an audit of the results of the election.
“Focusing on this election, I have not seen evidence of fraud, but what I have seen is a process that isn’t working and a chain of custody issues that is disturbing,” Kichline said. “I fully support a review of the process and how we reconcile (voter) rolls. Why is it that we still have voters who have moved out of the area (on the rolls)? Why is this still occurring? We live in a world where with this phone I can find and reconcile information.”
Kichline said she is especially concerned that the entire process is disenfranchising the younger voters.
One poll worker told the commissioners she witnessed a stack of torn and taped ballots measuring about 57-inches in height.
Willistown Township Dee Miller said over 125 precincts have not reconciled their vote count.
“The law says you cannot count any of these votes,” Miller said. “You swear an oath to support, defend and obey the constitution of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I am certain that all three of you took that oath seriously.”
Meredith Hunt, East Brandywine Township, asked whose idea it was to tape torn ballots if that is illegal.
“If we can’t count on them (election services) to uphold the law, then who can we count on,” Hunt asked. “It’s not about the final count; it’s the process we don’t trust. What good reason do you have not to do it (a forensic audit)? There is no better use of tax payer dollars than to ensure the integrity of our elections. Your positions as commissioners are not political and you have a responsibility to restore the trust that was broken.”
County solicitor Nicole R. Forzato said Chester County has a system where both parties work together, adding that no other county in the commonwealth does so.
“That’s lost in this room and that’s devastating to me,” Forzato said. “Were there technical issues in this election? Absolutely. We worked with the parties and the chief clerk of elections kept his eye on this at every stage. I want all of you to have faith in the process. I agree with everyone in that we wish it would have gone smoother. But the numbers do reconcile. When an irregularity turned up, we stopped, regrouped and worked to figure it out.”
West Goshen Township resident Ada Nester reminded the commissioners that it is a violation of law to certify an election where the votes did not reconcile.
“An investigation is required,” she said. “You do not have a choice. We will not go away and we will not back down. We deserve to have a process that does in fact function.”
Although voting in favor of certifying the election result, Democrat commissioners Marian Moskowitz and Josh Maxwell, said they have concerns about the process and would be in favor of a review process with a risk assessment.
“I think it’s important that we build confidence in our elections,” Moskowitz said. “We would like (Chester County) to be the gold standard for this and we will work hard to review our process.”
Maxwell said he did find discrepancies in the voter rolls disturbing.
The commissioners called for the county administrative staff to come to the commissioners next month with suggestions for a review of the ballot counting process.