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Schuylkill County News

Partial Recount Ordered in 2023 Schuylkill County Commissioners Election

Recount will occur on Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m.

A judge has granted a request to recount some of the votes recorded in the 2023 election for Schuylkill County Commissioner.

Late last week, Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Jacqueline Russell granted a request filed by Mary Jo Moss on behalf of 3 petitioners in one precinct, West Brunswick Township-North, to recount the votes for Schuylkill County Commissioner in the election last month.

Moss submitted her request on behalf of the petitioners – all Moss family members – on Nov. 30.

Russell granted the request on Dec. 1 and ordered that a recount of those votes will happen on Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at the Courthouse. She appointed the following 3 people to conduct the recount:

  • Anthony Odorizzi, Tamaqua
  • Thomas Pellish, Pottsville
  • Deborah Hall, Shenandoah

In the meantime, by law, all candidates potentially affected by a recount of these votes must be notified so they have an opportunity to witness the process on the 11th.

The Recount Process

Per Russell’s order, Odorizzi, Pellish, and Hall will serve as members of the Recount Board. They’re instructed to open the ballot box in question, count the votes, and then report to the court with their results.

The recount will be conducted in the Lawyers’ Room, adjacent to the Law Library, on the 4th floor of Schuylkill County Courthouse.

Sheriff Joe Groody was ordered to take custody of the West Brunswick-North ballot box and keep it secure until the time of the recount. On the 11th, Groody will turn the ballot box over to the Recount Board.

Each of the candidates for Schuylkill County Commissioner may be present for the recount or they can send a lawyer or an authorized representative.

Why is Moss Requesting a Recount?

In her appeal to grant the recount request, Moss writes to Russell, “I join the petitioners with concern for potential errors in computation, marking of ballots, or otherwise.”

She adds, “I am eager to verify and restore confidence that this important right to vote by writing in my name was conducted with the highest level of accuracy and integrity.”

Moss ran a write-in campaign for Schuylkill County Commissioner in the 2023 Municipal General Election. She decided to do that after finishing third in a field of eight Republican candidates in the May Primary Election, keeping her off the ballot.

Despite running a campaign that had only a slim, at best, chance of winning one of the three Commissioners seats up for grabs, her efforts certainly grabbed the attention of her own party’s leadership.

During the run-up to the election, Moss was thrown out of a fundraiser dinner by GOP Party Chairman Howie Merrick and labeled a “bad Republican.”

She was also called a “renegade” in a negative way by a member of the campaign to elect the eventual winners, Boots Hetherington and Larry Padora.

Even during a speech at the GOP victory celebration in Port Carbon on Election Night, Merrick couldn’t stop talking about Moss but refused to mention her by name when announcing results of the vote.

In the General Election, Moss finished with 4,275 votes via write-in. Most of those (3,849) happened on Election Day at the polls. Another 423 mail-in votes were recorded for Moss.

In West Brunswick Twp.-North, Democrat Commissioner Gary Hess actually got the most votes (279). He topped Padora’s 250 and Hetherington’s 245.

There were 187 write-in votes for Commissioner recorded in West Brunswick-North, according to a full official report The Canary obtained from the Schuylkill County Election Bureau. Of those 187 write-in votes, 185 were for Moss.

Democrat Rita Anczarski-Baldino got 146 votes in that precinct and Libertarian Gregory Woll finished with 34.

Overall, Moss lost the election by thousands of votes and tells The Canary she doesn’t believe that a recount will necessarily overturn the results of the November election.

“The request to recount is not initiated to overturn the election, but to instill integrity and confidence in the voting process,” Moss says. “The law is broad and says that the box can be opened if one believes there was an error in computing, marking ballots or otherwise.”

She cites issues that happened with this most recent election in Northampton County. There, according to media reports, votes to retain judges were flipped on a paper printout but they were allegedly recorded correctly by the voting machines. That happened on two races and the errors were blamed on insufficient testing prior to the election.

“Hearing about the Nov 7 Northampton error where officials responded that the software was not tested sufficiently to verify all combinations of ballot entries, it begs the question as to whether a write-in vote was tested at all. Unlike in Northampton County, Schuylkill County has a paper trail for verification, and petitioners have elected to recount and inspect the ballots for accuracy,” Moss says.

Since the election in November, Moss says she’s also heard of irregularities happening at voting precincts around Schuylkill County specifically regarding her campaign.

“Reports have been made that some voters were told that the scanner was not reading the write-in vote for Mary Jo Moss, leading some to draw false conclusions and make false statements that the stamp was the only way to cast a write-in vote for me,” Moss says.

Recount Process in Pennsylvania

This recount process is made possible through Title 25 Section 3261 of Pennsylvania’s election laws. That states the following process can be followed to request a recount:

  1. Filing a Petition: If three voters from an election district believe there was fraud or a mistake in their district’s vote counting, they can file a petition to the court. They don’t need to prove their suspicions right away.
  2. Court Action: When a petition is filed, the court can order the ballot box to be opened and the votes to be recounted by people the court chooses. This can happen for general, municipal, special, or primary elections.
  3. Deposits or Bonds: The people filing the petition must either pay $50 or provide a $100 bond. If the recount shows there was indeed fraud or a big mistake, they get their money back. If not, they lose the $50 to the county.
  4. Notifying Candidates: Before the recount, all candidates affected by the recount must be told about it and can watch the recount process.
  5. Outcome of the Recount: If the recount reveals fraud or a significant error, the court will make a note of it and the petitioners get their deposit back. If nothing wrong is found, the petitioners lose their deposit to the county.
  6. Time Limit: This process can be done up to four months after the election.

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  1. Val

    December 5, 2023 at 10:24 am

    What is the reason Mary Jo Moss has not been participating in Schuylkill County Candidates for Commissioner Debate in October? The video of it was posted on Youtube by Skook News. Only 5 candidates were present.

    • Canary Commenter

      December 6, 2023 at 1:57 pm

      We had the video, too, and we live-blogged the debate. We also broke down individual questions from the debate into separate articles. To heck with that other site.

      The reason Mary Jo was not on the stage is because the Chamber of Commerce decided to limit the debate to just candidates who were on the ballot.

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