Pennsylvania Court Affirms Dismissal of Right-Wing Challenge To Lycoming County’s 2020 Election Results

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania tossed out a right-wing lawsuit brought by two members of the Lycoming County Patriots who challenged the results of the county’s 2020 general election more than two years after it took place. 

Despite the fact that former President Donald Trump prevailed over now-President Joe Biden by nearly 25,000 votes in Lycoming County’s 2020 general election, the voters who brought the lawsuit claimed that the county’s election results should be decertified upon findings of fraud and irregularities. 

The Commonwealth Court’s ruling issued last Wednesday affirmed Lycoming County Judge Eric R. Linhardt’s previous dismissal of the legal challenge last summer on the grounds that it was both legally and procedurally “insufficient.” 

In his July 2023 order, Linhardt rejected the right-wing petitioners’ request for an independent post-election investigation of the county’s 2020 election results — known as a “forensic audit” — in order to examine alleged “fraud and irregularities.” The Lycoming County Board of Elections previously declined to vote for a forensic audit — a move that prompted the petitioners to conduct their own investigation into the election results and subsequently file their legal action. 

In support of their twice-rejected claims that the election was beset by fraud, the members of the conservative Lycoming County Patriots pointed to “potentially fraudulent” voter registrations — most of which were later canceled by the county’s election director. According to Linhardt’s 2023 decision, the board’s cancellation of the faulty registrations made it “apparent” that it did in fact perform its legal duty to investigate potential election fraud and irregularities. 

The unanimous three-judge panel that issued last week’s order wrote that it affirms the dismissal of the suit “based on Judge Linhardt’s well-reasoned opinion.” 

The panel also addressed the petitioners’ assertion that the Lycoming County Board of Elections failed to report “suspicious circumstances” to the county district attorney. In particular, the panel held that “it is within a board’s discretion to determine whether there is credible evidence of suspicious circumstances” and that the board has “no mandatory duty to report anything others may deem suspicious.”

As a hotbed of election denialism and conspiracy theories, Lycoming County has experienced numerous election-related tribulations over the last few years. Nearly 800 days after the 2020 election, Lycoming election officials performed a hand recount of nearly 60,000 ballots cast on Election Day — an undertaking that took nearly 560 hours of work, according to the New York Times

Although the results of the recount had negligible effects on the county’s election results and revealed no evidence of fraud, Republicans in the county have continued to sow doubt and promulgate conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election. 

Last week’s decision — unless appealed — officially puts an end to the Lycoming County Patriots’ legal challenge to Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results. As the 2024 presidential election nears, the Keystone State is seeing a proliferation of other election-related legal challenges from right-wing individuals and organizations concerning everything from drop boxes to automatic voter registration and more.  

Read the opinion here.

Learn more about the case here.