NAACP Seeks Legal Relief from PA GOP Voter Suppression

The NAACP and other plaintiffs’ request is simple: count every Vote-by-Mail ballot received on or before Election Day.
ballot box
Ruling in case brought by voters disenfranchised in May primary resolves apparent contradiction in law over counting provisional ballots.

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP filed a complaint on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to seek relief and ensure that “qualified Pennsylvania voters are not disenfranchised based on an immaterial paperwork error” pursuant to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court order.

Additional plaintiffs in the suit include the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, Common Cause Pennsylvania, Black Political Empowerment Project and Make the Road Pennsylvania.

Most recently, the PA GOP celebrated a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that requires undated ballots to be set aside and not counted even if the ballot was received by the county board of elections prior to or on November 8, the day of the upcoming midterm election. It also specifies that ballots with an incorrect date be set aside and not counted.

Democrats see this as blatant voter suppression. Statistical data reveals that Democrats utilize the Vote-by-Mail program more than Republicans.

In Bucks County, and just prior to the cut-off date to apply for a midterm election Vote-by-Mail ballot, a total of 88,332 ballots had been requested.

According to James O’Malley, deputy director of communications for the Bucks County Board of Elections, that number represents 58,656 requests from Democrats and 19,535 requests from Republicans.In 2021, 51,794 ballots were requested with Democrats receiving 35,101 and Republicans receiving 11,829.

The recent court order complicates matters by including a provision that local boards of election were not prepared for separating, removing and holding ballots containing a “wrong date.”

The exterior return Vote-by-Mail envelope contains a line for the voter’s signature and a line that requests “Today’s Date.”

The Court, however, has not specified or defined the meaning of a “wrong date.”

Pennsylvania Republicans were the majority in Harrisburg when Vote-by-Mail Act 77 cleared the legislature. The law passed during the Covid pandemic when the GOP majority feared the loss of votes due to a potential drop of in-person voting.

Since the 2020 election, the GOP has been attempting to overturn the Vote-by-Mail law with a variety of lawsuits. Republicans have attempted to reap voting tally boosts by passing or repealing laws.

“Republican U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick filed a lawsuit in a Pennsylvania court to compel counties to count undated mail-in ballots in his ultimately unsuccessful primary race against TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz,” wrote Reuters after the May, 2022 primary.

Ironically, the PA GOP – who overwhelmingly voted to pass SB421 (now Act 77 of 2019) – have done a serious about-face since realizing that Democrats have utilized Vote-by-Mail more than Republican voters.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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