HARRISBURG, PA—The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled today that state law allows county bureaus of elections to set up drop boxes and satellite offices to accept mail and absentee ballots.
In a lawsuit brought by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, the court also found that Pennsylvania law requiring all mail and absentee ballots to be delivered to the county elections office by 8 p.m. on Election Day is unconstitutional under the state constitution during the coronavirus pandemic and because of problems documented with the postal service, and that ballots that arrive by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6, will be counted, provided there is no evidence that the ballots were mailed after Election Day.
A team of voting rights advocates first attempted to intervene in the case and then, when their motion was denied, filed a friend-of-the-court brief. The brief was filed by The Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and Make The Road Pennsylvania and three individual voters. In its ruling, the court agreed with most of the advocates’ positions.
The advocates are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm WilmerHale.
The following are reactions to today’s ruling:
Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania: “Today’s decision is a huge victory for Pennsylvania voters, especially those who are at high risk of severe illness from the COVID-19 virus. During a deadly global pandemic, voters must be given more safe options for casting their votes, not new barriers that they must navigate to make their voices heard. Today’s ruling protects voters’ health and their right to safe, reliable access to the vote. The League will continue to inform voters of their options for casting their ballots this year, which now includes secure drop boxes.”
Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO with The Black Empowerment Project: “The Black Political Empowerment Project was proud to be a partner with advocacy organizations that believe in protecting the right to vote. The fact that the state Supreme Court has ruled in our favor to allow counties to have drop boxes is important for extending the opportunity of people to utilize their right to vote. With so many stories of delays in the U.S. mail, we think it is also important that, under these unusual circumstances, people will have their ballots counted, as long as they are in the mail by Election Day. BPEP’s mission is to encourage African-Americans to vote in each and every election, and we feel that the court’s decision supports that objective.”