U.S. Elections

Civil Rights Organizations 

Fight Attempt to Block Valid Ballots

HARRISBURG, Penn. (ACLU) - 11/5/2020 - Voting rights organizations are fighting back against an attempt by Republican candidates in Pennsylvania to invalidate valid ballots cast by eligible voters.

   State representative candidate Joseph Hamm and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, along with four voters, filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on Election Day, claiming that county election officials who were following guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of State had violated state election law by notifying voters that their mail-in ballots had been rejected. The petitioners asked the court to invalidate all provisional or replacement ballots cast by Pennsylvania voters whose mail-in ballots were canceled, and all mail-in ballot that were “cured” after voters were notified about a problem with their initial ballot.

In an amicus brief filed Nov. 5, leading organizations representing voters came together to oppose the attempt to deprive Pennsylvanians of the opportunity to cast a valid ballot. The brief was filed by the Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.

These organizations were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Pennsylvania, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Public Interest Law Center, and pro bono counsel from Covington & Burling.

“This attempt to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters must be rejected,” the brief reads. “Nothing in the Election Code prohibits a county board of elections from providing notice that a voter’s mail-in ballot has been rejected so that the voter can be contacted and afforded an opportunity to cast a valid ballot.”

A mail-in ballot can be canceled when the voter made certain technical mistakes, such as not using a secrecy envelope. By notifying voters that their ballots cannot be accepted, the amici assert, Pennsylvania counties have given voters a chance to make their voice heard. Invalidating provisional ballots would eliminate the only recourse that voters whose mail-in ballots would be rejected have to be able to participate in the election.

“Every vote counts, and this latest effort to discard valid ballots in Pennsylvania should be rejected,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Every voter must have their voice heard. No more shenanigans by those who oppose this foundational principle of our democracy.”

Source: ACLU news release