On March 19th, MoreThanTheCurve.com reported on a video showing someone placing more than one ballot in a dropbox in Upper Dublin Township during the 2021 election.
In that article, MoreThanTheCurve.com showed that the “frequently asked questions” section of the voter services portion of the county’s website stated that if a voter with an illness or disability could not make it to a polling location the voter could designate someone to deliver their ballot on their behalf. These ballots were required to be dropped off at a Swede Street address in Norristown. Drop boxes could not be used for this purpose.
Our article came on the heels of a series of recommendations from the Montgomery County Republican Committee on how future elections could be made more secure. Liz Havey, chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, had pointed to the video from Upper Dublin as a reason these reforms are needed.
Since then the county has responded (full letter) to the allegations of voter fraud resulting from the video showing multiple ballots being placed into a dropbox by one person in Upper Dublin.
From the response:
After our review, it has been determined that the individual depicted in the video clip deposited each ballot with a completed Designated Agent Form in accordance with Pennsylvania law. Each form properly identified the individual voter and designated the individual in the video as the person permitted to act as an agent on the voter’s behalf. The County maintains each of these Designated Agent forms in its possession. This individual did nothing wrong. In fact, the video shows this voter taking the proper steps to enfranchise residents of a local rehabilitation and long-term care facility so that their votes were legally cast.
The county’s response and explanation however do not mesh with a state document titled “2020 Voting Fact Sheet for Long Term Care Facilities” that provides instructions to those seeking to designate someone to cast their ballot. From the state’s fact sheet:
A “household” for the purpose of designating an agent does not include a long-term care facility. However, a couple sharing a room or apartment within a facility may be considered members of the same household. This means that each resident who is unable to return their own voted ballot due to a disability must designate a different agent
Further, a document created by Disability Rights Pennsylvania titled “Voting as a Resident of a Nursing Facility, Personal Care Homes, or Other Long Term Care Facility” reiterates the rules established by the state for the 2021 election. From the document:
A “household” for the purpose of designating an agent does not include a long-term care facility. However, the Department of State has stated that a couple sharing a room or apartment within a facility may be considered members of the same household. This means that each resident who is unable to return his/her own voted ballot due to a disability must designate a different agent. Depending on the number of voters within a facility who will require a staff member to serve as their designated agent, this could present issues, and ultimately lead to voter disenfranchisement. Voters who require the help of an agent should consider this carefully when selecting who will serve as their agent.
When MoreThanTheCurve.com received a copy of the letter from the county to the Montgomery County Republican Committee we inquired why the “frequently asked questions” section of the county website contradicted the county’s explanation in the letter. The county’s spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco responded:
As we have moved further into the use of mail in voting and secure ballot drop boxes our policies have evolved and changed. Since the original FAQ was posted, this policy has been updated to comply with the use of secure drop boxes, an option that did not exist at the time of its original posting.
Thank you for pointing out the inconsistency on our website, we are correcting it to accurately reflect the policy of our Voter Services office, which is that Designated Agent forms are permissible at secure drop boxes and have been since we started using them.
We were curious to find out when the policy had changed and how it was publicized prior to the 2021 general election. We could find no evidence that it was. In fact, utilizing Archive.org, a website that archives website pages, we searched for the county’s instructions on drop boxes as stated on its website on November 1, 2021, the day prior to the general election.
In the above image from the county’s website via Archive.org, you will see three highlighted areas. The first shows the page’s URL which has the title “Secure Ballot Drop Box Location.” The second shows the date of the archived page being November 1, 2021. The third is a paragraph that states how a ballot with a designated agent should be returned. It states that designated ballots can only be returned at the Swede Street address.
Five days before the 2021 general election, Montgomery County posted on Facebook details about utilizing a dropbox. It clearly states that you can only return your own ballot.
We also reviewed the agendas and minutes from the 2021 meetings of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. The Board of Elections is made up of the three county commissioners. In these documents, we could find no mention regarding setting or changing the rules surrounding dropboxes and voters designating someone to return their ballot. In fact, the only mention we could find regarding the rules surrounding drop boxes was on an informational document about drop boxes attached to the April 19, 2021 agenda. On the document, it states:
Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Election Code you may only return your own voted ballot. You may not return any ballot that does not belong to you. County Security will be on-site at each location, and there will be video surveillance. Anyone depositing a ballot that does not belong to them will be referred to the District Attorney’s office.
We can find no evidence that the three county commissioners acting as the Board of Elections took any step to change the rules surrounding dropboxes and designated ballots. And the fact that the county document references state law when stating that dropboxes can only be used by a person submitting their own ballot raises the question as to whether the county would even have the authority to make such a change.
MoreThanTheCurve.com filed a right to know to obtain all of the surveillance videos of dropboxes from the county and received a response that it no longer exists. The county cited a state requirement to only keep it for 60 days after the certification of the election. According to Havey, the county told the Republican Party that the video had never been watched. Havey also tells MoreThanTheCurve.com that the video that it received through a right-to-know request was provided in an unusual format and cumbersome file size.
MoreThanTheCurve.com also filed a right-to-know on a series of documents such as the invoices for the surveillance equipment connected to the dropboxes and any connection to the review of the video. The county implemented its right to have 30 days (instead of five) to respond.
Please note that we believe that the person in question on the video shown placing the ballots into the dropbox is someone very active in politics in Upper Dublin Township. This person did not respond to an email asking for an interview request.
Questions the county needs to address:
1. Did the county review the video taken at drop boxes during the 2021 general election? If not, why not?
2. When and how did the county amend the rules regarding drop boxes and those returning ballots for someone else?
3. If the county did indeed change the rules regarding drop boxes, why was the county still promoting the previous rule up through election day?
4. Are the multiple ballots returned by the person shown on video in Upper Dublin from a single facility as they are described (“residents of a local rehabilitation and long-term care facility”) in the letter from the county? Do these ballots represent a single household as defined by the state?
How to Report Election Fraud
While the county has determined that no election fraud occurred, there is a process that anyone can use to file a complaint.
Election fraud falls under the jurisdiction of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, the Montgomery County District Attorney, and the Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania. You can file a complaint here.
More to come.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
Photo: Montgomery County Commissioners Dr. Val Arkoosh (left), Ken Lawrence (center), Joe Gale (right). Photos from Montgomery County.