Voter Action Press Release

Federal Judge Rules that More Emergency Paper Ballots Be Made Available When Voters Face Voting Machine Breakdowns

Oct 29 2008 | October 29, 2008 | PHILADELPHIA, PA – 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. The plaintiffs presented testimony at an eight hour hearing yesterday before Judge Bartle that voters had faced such long lines caused by voting machine problems during the primary election in Pennsylvania in April, particularly in low-income minority neighborhoods.
“This is a huge victory for the voters of Pennsylvania,”said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This ruling will ensure that many voters across Pennsylvania will not be disenfranchised when voting machines break down on Election Day.”

The lawsuit followed numerous reports during Pennsylvania’s April primary of long lines when electronic voting machines became inoperable at their polling sites. Voters called national election protection hotlines on primary day, including 866-MYVOTE1, reporting that election officials were not providing emergency paper ballots when voting machines malfunctioned. Callers stated that voters were told either to wait in line – sometimes for hours – or to come back later to vote. The reports revealed that many voters left their polling locations without casting their votes.
The plaintiffs include in the case include the NAACP State Conference of Pennsylvania, individual voters who reported long lines and voting machine breakdowns during the state’s primary election in April, and the Election Reform Network, a local election integrity organization. The plaintiffs are represented by Voter Action, a national voting rights organization, the law firm of Emery Cell Brinckerhoff & Abady, and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
Voter Action is a national non-profit organization that seeks to ensure election integrity in the United States through legal advocacy, research, and public education. We aim to protect an open and transparent election process, one in which our elections at the federal, state, and local level are accessible and verifiable. We support the basic civil and political rights of all voters to cast their ballots in an independent manner and to have to their votes accurately recorded and counted. We seek to reclaim our elections for the public domain, controlled by the voters and not by private interests.
View the Court Ruling Here