Voter Action Press Release
Lawyers Head to Court On Behalf of Pennsylvania VotersNov 4 2008 | Philadelphia County Election Officials Fail To Meet Secretary of State’s Orders to Count Emergency Paper Ballots on Election Night | County Claims It Will Count Such Ballots on Friday
Lawyers for the NAACP-Philadelphia Branch and its member-voters are filing an emergency lawsuit against Philadelphia County this afternoon, seeking a court ruling requiring county election officials to count emergency paper ballots cast today at the close of polls. Despite orders from the Secretary of State, election officials have stated they do not plan to count these emergency ballots until Friday.
“This is a direct violation of what the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth has ordered and does not follow the recent ruling issued by the federal court on this matter,” said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “Emergency paper ballots must be treated as regular ballots and must be counted on election night. Philadelphia County’s plans to count these ballots on Friday will undermine the fundamental right of voters to have their votes counted equally with all other votes.”
A coalition of Pennsylvania voters and civil rights groups won a lawsuit last week when Federal Judge Harvey S. Bartle III ruled today that emergency paper ballots must be made available when fifty percent or more voting machines fail at polling locations across Pennsylvania. Judge Bartle, who is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued the ruling in favor of plaintiffs who had argued that voters could be disenfranchised by having to wait hours in line due to voting machine breakdowns.
“Voters who cast emergency paper ballots should not be treated differently than any other voters,” said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “The United States Constitution requires no less.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs include the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Voter Action, and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. The firm served as plaintiffs’ counsel in the recent federal court case.