Judge says Pa. must provide paper ballots
Delays caused by voting-machine breakdowns on Tuesday could unduly burden citizens and deprive them of their right to vote, Chief Judge Harvey Bartle III ruled.
"The evidence, not surprisingly, demonstrated that DRE [direct-recording electronic] voting machines, like all other machines, sometimes fail. When that happens, time is of the essence," Bartle wrote in a 28-page ruling. "The polls are open for one day and one day only and then for only 13 hours. There is no rain date."
A coalition of voters and civil rights groups, led by the NAACP State Conference of Pennsylvania, sued Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes over problems caused by machine failures in the April primary, when there were long lines and some voters were turned away.
On Sept. 3, Cortes instructed poll workers to issue paper ballots when all machines in a polling place shut down at once, but the groups contended that standard was not strong enough.
After an eight-hour hearing Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, the judge agreed: "We find there is a real danger that a significant number of machines will malfunction throughout the commonwealth, and this occurrence is likely to cause unacceptably long lines on Nov. 4."
He cited a Cheltenham breakdown in which voters were inconvenienced from 7 to about 9:30 a.m. on primary day before one machine was repaired and the second replaced with one shipped from Norristown.
Poll watcher Coletta Thomas testified that she saw from 175 to 200 people in line. Many left without voting, but she did not know whether they returned later.
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