Pennsylvania voters scramble to cast new ballots after GOP trial


Six days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated thousands of mail-in ballots in response to a republican trialCitizens of Philadelphia and other parts of this battleground state scrambled to replace voters to have their votes counted on Election Day.

Kirby Smith said after he and his wife were told their mail-in ballots wouldn’t count because they ran out of dates, they lined up for two hours at Philadelphia City Hall to vote replacement, missing a large part of the working day.

“Oh, I’m going to vote. It’s not a question,” said Smith, a 59-year-old Democrat who said he viewed the court’s decision as part of an attempt to stop people from voting. “I am going to fight.”

Several judges have ruled over the past two years that ballots returned on time by eligible Pennsylvania voters should be counted even if they don’t have a date on the outer envelope. Republicans filed a lawsuit in October to reverse the policy, arguing it violated state law. Last Tuesday, they won a favorable state Supreme Court ruling, which ordered counties not to count ballots with missing or inaccurate dates.

The move sparked an extensive volunteer-run effort to ensure voters who had already turned in their ballots knew their vote wouldn’t count if they didn’t respond.

Nowhere has this effort been more intense than in Philadelphia. On Saturday, city officials released the names of more than 2,000 voters who had returned defective ballots and urged them to come to City Hall to vote in the few days remaining before Election Day. Community activists and volunteers from the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party began calling, texting and knocking on people’s doors to spread the word.

On Monday, the line to cast a replacement vote at City Hall snaked outside and into the courtyard of the building as volunteers delivered snacks and bottled water, according to voters and activists.

“I’m lucky. I could stand in line and do this,” said Melissa Sherwood, a 25-year-old Democrat who works from home. eye to the line and said no.”

Penina Bernstein said she was thousands of miles away in Colorado when she found out – from friends and strangers who contacted her via Facebook – that her ballot was undated and wouldn’t count not. She made immediate plans to return to Pennsylvania to vote.

“I’m going home tonight and I’ll be there to fix it tomorrow because my voice won’t be silenced by voter suppression,” said Bernstein, 40, who added she wasn’t wealthy and traveled at great expense.

Several volunteers said they spoke to many other voters who said they could not get to City Hall to fix their ballots, due to disability or lack of transportation.

Mobilization to contact voters is a decentralized and ad hoc effort led by many disparate groups. While some voters told the Washington Post they were repeatedly contacted about their ballots, others said they heard nothing until they received a call from ‘a journalist.

“Our fear is that there will likely be several thousand Philadelphians who have legally attempted to vote and their votes will not count,” said Benjamin Abella, an emergency physician who has volunteered with a group of fellow physicians working for inform voters that they need to repair their ballots.

Abella said the effort by his group and others was a grassroots mobilization to make up for the government’s lack of effort to contact voters individually. He said voters who made it to City Hall found few workers willing to receive them – hence the long waits. “It’s such a shame that this is how democracy works in America in 2022,” he said.

Shoshanna Israel, of Philadelphia’s Working Families Party, said efforts to help voters fix their ballots had snowballed since Sunday, with 250 people signed up for a phone banking session Monday night. The party has programmed voters’ names, ballot type and county of residence into software that creates a bespoke script for volunteers contacting voters.

Several voters told the Post that they received no notification from the city government. Nick Custodio, an assistant city commissioner, said Philadelphia officials put out a robocall to voters whose numbers they had. But otherwise, he said, “we’re focused on tomorrow’s election.”

City officials had announced that voters could elect a replacement at City Hall until 5 p.m. Monday. But around 3:45 p.m., officials told some people online that they would not arrive at the office before closing time and could not vote, according to Abella, who was there.

The decision upset some people, and sheriff’s deputies arrived to enforce the ruling. City Commissioner Seth Bluestein, a Republican, wrote on Twitter that it was a “shame” that voters were put in the position of trying to cure their ballots at the last minute. City officials are “doing their best to help as many voters as possible with very little time and resources,” he wrote.

Not all counties in Pennsylvania notify voters when their absentee ballots are deficient and allow them to submit replacements. Courts have found that state law does not require counties to give voters the option to repair defective ballots, but neither does it prevent them from doing so.

In Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, authorities posted lists of more than 1,000 voters’ names with undated or incorrectly dated ballots. Just over 100 cured their ballots Monday, according to city officials.

Darrin Kelly, president of the Pittsburgh-area AFL-CIO affiliate, said its members represent 147 of the voters whose ballots were spoiled there. Its volunteer bankers had contacted about 100 of them by 5 p.m. on Monday and expected to reach them all by the end of the evening.

“The most important thing is to protect our democracy and make sure everyone has a chance to vote,” said Kelly, who guessed most of its members are Democrats.

At a public meeting of the Lancaster County Board of Elections on Monday, a citizen urged the council to inform voters who had cast defective ballots and allow them to vote on another, saying to do otherwise would be to deprive neighbors of their rights. One of the council members said he agreed, but the other two did not.

“We’ve never cured the ballots in Lancaster County. It’s a questionable procedure,” said Joshua G. Parsons, county commissioner and council member. “It’s a questionable procedure.”

In Monroe County in northeastern Pennsylvania, Republicans sued last week in a bid to block officials from inspecting mail-in ballots before Election Day, the first step in efforts of the county to ensure voters who returned ballots with errors — such as missing signatures or dates — had a chance to cast a replacement. A state judge denied that request on Monday.

Meanwhile, the fight against undated and incorrectly dated ballots is not over. When the state Supreme Court ordered counties not to count those ballots, it also ordered them to set those ballots aside and keep them — apparently in anticipation of further litigation. On Friday, several voting and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that failing to count those ballots for “meaningless technicality” would amount to a violation of the law on civil rights.

Election officials fear delays in vote counting could help fuel fraud claims

Clifford Levine, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic election lawyer, said he expects up to 1% of mail-in ballots to be set aside for errors — a potentially game-changing sum in tight races such than the US Senate contest. By Monday, more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians had voted by mail, about 70% of whom were Democrats.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office has released the names of at least 7,000 voters whose ballots were flagged for errors, but Levine said that number will increase on Election Day as more ballots will arrive – and also because some counties have chosen not to review mail-in ballots. , notify voters of errors, or share information with the state.

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