Requirements for Filing An Election Recount Petition In Pennsylvania

In Giacobello v. Bd. of Elections Borough of Mount Union, 14 Pa. Commw. 376, 322 A.2d 429 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1974), the court strictly enforced the statutory requirements for pursuing a challenge to election returns by a petition to common pleas for a recount. The court ruled that a petition unaccompanied by the requisite verifications of three qualified electors constituted a defect fatal to jurisdiction over the petition and opined as follows: The effect of the type of irregularity which exists in this case was considered in the case of North Union Township Election Case, 250 Pa. 98, 95 A. 421 (1915), in which case one of the persons signing and swearing to the Petition for the contest was not a qualified elector of the election district. The court there held that the Petition was not verified as required by the Act of Assembly, and the Court acquired no jurisdiction of the proceeding, stating that an affidavit of the required number of qualified electors is essentially necessary to give jurisdiction. To conclude otherwise is to re-write a portion of the Statute by the Court and to erode the effect of the statutory provision by an unwarranted invasion by the judiciary into the legislative field. 322 A.2d at 430-31. Similarly, in In re Reading School Board Election, Appeal of Pagano, 535 Pa. 32, 634 A.2d 170 (1993), our Supreme Court ruled that a petition for recount filed with the county board of elections lacking the required verifications of three electors was fatally flawed so as to deprive the board of jurisdiction to entertain the request. More recently, our Supreme Court held that electors who sign a petition for recount filed to common pleas must verify the averments by means of an oath or affirmation before a notary or other public official, i.e., pursuant to an affidavit, and the Court reiterated that an improper verification is "a jurisdictional defect that cannot be cured." In re 2003 General Election for the Office of Prothonotary of Washington County, Appeal of Matheny, 578 Pa. at 19, 849 A.2d at 240 citing, In re Opening of Ballot Boxes, Montour County, 553 Pa. 207, 213, 718 A.2d 774, 777 (1998) ("it has been consistently held for more than eighty years that a recount petition not verified in accordance with the statutory requirements does not properly invoke the jurisdiction of the common pleas court and should be dismissed.").