Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate Jim Bognet sued the Luzerne County Board of Elections in the county’s Court of Common Pleas this week over problems with the administration of the 2022 election.
This year, Bognet challenged incumbent Democrat Matt Cartwright to represent the Eighth Congressional District which includes Scranton, Wilks-Barre, Hazleton, Mount Pocono, and neighboring communities extending northeastward to the New York and New Jersey borders. While many observers considered Cartwright’s re-election effort vulnerable, he ultimately received 51.3 percent of the 283,580 votes cast for Congress in the district, while Bognet got 48.7 percent.
In his lawsuit, Bognet takes the county election board to task for what he deems its inadequate preparation that resulted in paper shortages which in turn led to hours-long poll closures. To address the closures, a county judge decided on Election Day, November 8, to keep some polls open two hours past the planned closing time.
Because of those events, many voters cast provisional ballots, which voters typically cast if election officials need more time to verify their eligibility, instead of standard ballots.
To ensure that all residents who legitimately cast ballots have their votes counted, Bognet is asking the court to order Luzerne County to conduct a thorough reconciliation process before certifying the election results. That would entail comparing lists of numbered voters with those who cast votes in the election and determining whether data on tally papers and precinct total cards accord with results on general return papers. The deadline for Luzerne County’s Board of Elections to report final election results is next Monday.
“The purpose of this filing is to make sure every citizen that voted has their vote counted regardless of party,” Bognet said in a statement after the hearing. “The public testimony of Luzerne County voters concerning their experiences on Election Day was heartbreaking. It is clear that an unprecedented Election Day fiasco took place in Luzerne County.”
In public testimony Tuesday morning and court documents, several witnesses described their unease with the process. Kelly Halchak of Dorrance Township, for instance, recalled arriving with her husband to vote at 9:30 that morning. She stated they were instructed to write in their favored candidates on provisional ballots. Anxious about the matter, they attested to returning later to check if anyone had brought in standard ballots.
“I was told by one lady she came in the morning because she didn’t want to drive in the evening due to darkness & deer crossing roads at night,” Halchack wrote in her statement. “We were told by poll worker [sic] they called twelve times for someone to bring paper to their location.”
Progressives reproved Bognet for filing what they believe to be meritless litigation.
“Not satisfied with losing to Cartwright twice, Bognet wants to lose a third time,” Marywood University history professor Adam D. Shprintzen tweeted, referring to the fact that Bognet narrowly lost to the incumbent Democrat in 2020 as well as this year.
The left-wing election-law nonprofit Democracy Docket dismissed the candidate’s legal effort as the last-ditch move of an “election denier.”
In his filing, Bognet cites Pennsylvania’s Election Code observing that counties must reconcile their data in order to certify any election.
“Each county is required under Pennsylvania law to conduct a precinct by precinct reconciliation of how many citizens went to their polling place and signed in to vote versus how many votes were counted in each precinct,” he said. “Every citizen that believes in the sacred right to vote should join in demanding that this reconciliation be completed immediately and prior to any certification of the vote in Luzerne County.”
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jim Bognet” by Jim Bognet. Background Photo “Election Day” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.