Election Board tosses 61 absentee ballots in Marple

MARPLE — The Delaware County Board of Elections recently ruled that 61 absentee ballots that were cast for the Nov. 5 election by residents at the Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center will not be counted.

This matter came before the county Election Board when John P. Capuzzi Jr. filed a challenge to 67 absentee ballots cast at the 2nd ward, 2nd precinct of Marple. Capuzzi is a countywide poll watcher, according to his attorney, J. Michael Sheridan.

Six of the 67 were denied by agreement of all parties. The three-member Election Board voted 2-1 on Monday to sustain the challenge to the other 61 ballots. The two Republican board members — Carmen P. Belefonte and James R. Flandreau — voted in favor of the challenge; Democratic board member Gerald Lawrence voted against it.

“If a person requires assistance, both in applying for the absentee ballot and thereafter in completing the absentee ballot, whoever provides that assistance is required to first identify who they are, and to show that the person approves of them providing assistance,” said Sheridan.

Sheridan argued that it was clear that some of those requirements were not met. 

“That’s one of the protections for the voter that the ballot reflects the intent of the voter,” he said.

There was no representative from the nursing home at the hearing. County Solicitor Michael Maddren said a subpoena was sent to a member of the nursing home’s management team, but no one showed up.

“Although we cannot speak to the current political controversy, Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center makes great efforts to ensure that the rights of all our residents are respected, including the right to vote,” Brandon Jolly, an associate administrator at the Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, wrote in an email Tuesday. “Therefore, we work with the Delaware County Voters Registration and Elections Offices to allow infirmed residents to cast their vote by absentee ballot.”

Jolly said the nursing facility did not receive notice for Monday’s hearing until Saturday, Nov. 9 — two days before “and it included little information regarding the subject matter of the hearing.”

“Furthermore, none of the residents whose votes are at issue received notice of the hearing or the potential for their votes to be discarded,” Jolly said. “Given the extremely short notice and lack of information, the facility was unable to adequately prepare for appearance at the hearing. With that said, we are actively working on this issue with our residents to ensure their rights to vote are preserved.”

At the end of the hearing, Election Bureau Solicitor Frank Catania indicated the matter could be turned over to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office for further review. Maddren said it was relayed to him that county election officials were considering turning it over to the D.A.’s office. As of Wednesday afternoon, the D.A.’s office had not received anything, according to a spokeswoman for the office. 

Delaware County Democratic Party Chairman David Landau said local Democratic officials are “very troubled by the vote of the Election Board (Monday) to toss out ballots of voters who wanted to vote.”

Landau said the board’s ruling won’t ultimately affect the outcome of any of the recent election results, but Democratic officials are questioning the grounds in which the ballots were tossed out. He believes more should have been done to notify the voters about the challenge.

Attorney John F. Rooney V filed an appeal to the Election Board’s ruling on behalf of 11 of the nursing home residents on Wednesday. In the appeal, Rooney argued that the board’s hearing was “defective and violated the rights” of the voters, among other things, court records state. 

Rooney also noted that neither the Election Code nor the absentee ballot application forms “require that the applicant personally complete the entire absentee ballot application themselves in order for the application to be valid or for the absentee ballot to be counted,” and therefore the Election Board’s decision to sustain Capuzzi’s challenge to the absentee ballots “on the grounds that the appellants failed to personally complete the entire absentee ballot application themselves is erroneous as a matter of law.” 

Maddren and Sheridan said they could not comment on the appeal late Wednesday afternoon because they had not seen it.