An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge on Friday dismissed recount petitions for 12 election precincts.

The petitions, which concerned midterm election vote counts at just a dozen of the more than 1,300 precincts in Allegheny County, asked the court to allow a recount. Citing data displayed on the Pennsylvania Department of State website and questions about USB drives, the petitioners claimed ballot boxes from the Nov. 8 midterm elections needed to be reopened.

Judge Joseph James, a senior judge in the county court’s civil division, found their claims did not fulfill legal requirements under state law. His order allows the precincts’ votes to be included in Allegheny County’s final election results; the county board of elections certified results on Nov. 28 in the precincts not contested by the petitions.

The courtroom gallery was filled with people and remaining spectators were seated in the jury box. Some of those filling the courtroom were those who filed the challenges, while others said they were just interested in the merits and outcome of the case.

Allan Opsitnick, an assistant solicitor for Allegheny County, told the judge that the petitions contained identical claims copied straight from the state elections code and were intended to “gum up the works” of the election. He said the petitions should be dismissed due to court records showing petitioners hadn’t filed the necessary fees, and that there was no claim of a particular act of fraud or error.

“I think the court’s obligated to dismiss it,” Opsitnick said.

The petitions, if they had been granted, would not have changed the outcome of the elections with which they were concerned: the governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Some of the filings brought up races for state House, but none challenged state Senate races.

The allegations made by the petitioners included claims that USB hard drives used by election workers were sometimes moved without constant observation. They also made note of vote tabulation errors made on the commonwealth Department of State website. Those errors had been corrected by the state since they were identified.

Similar petitions were filed across Pennsylvania as part of a wave of election denial groups sending in large numbers of requests for hand recounts of election results.

Greg Teufel, the attorney representing the petitioners, told the judge that the number of votes listed on the state website “went down” at one point Election Day.

“You can’t lose votes,” Teufel said.

But Judge James noted that the mistake was corrected and said there could have been a reasonable explanation for it. He claimed votes are sometimes accidentally counted twice, citing an example in Georgia, although he did not specify the case.

Teufel responded that there could have been a “reasonable explanation” for the mistabulation, but he repeated that the “unusual behavior in data” seen on the state site may have meant that there were errors in Allegheny County that led to statewide problems. But he cited no specific error to the court.

There are no known instances of widespread voter fraud related to the 2022 election in Pennsylvania or elsewhere in the country.

Mick is a reporter on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s health desk, but he's currently on strike.

Mick Stinelli

Mick is a reporter on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s health desk, but he's currently on strike.