Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans Sues Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Waive Absentee Ballot Requirements in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

HARRISBURG – Today, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans and four of its members filed a lawsuit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court seeking to protect the rights of older voters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit alleges that the Commonwealth has failed to adequately prepare for elections that  will be held during a serious public health crisis, forcing older voters to choose between their health or casting a ballot they know will be counted. 

The Commonwealth has announced that the number of in-person voting locations will be dramatically reduced from previous elections, which will inevitably mean long waits to vote. A record number of citizens have already requested absentee ballots, significantly increasing the workloads of county election board staff members, who are currently under stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service, which will be relied on to deliver more than a million anticipated ballots, is under severe financial and operational pressure, and may be unable to deliver all voters’ ballots in a timely manner.

The plaintiffs are asking for the defendants to:

  • Adopt additional procedures to ensure that ballots delivered after the Election Day Receipt Deadline due to mail delivery delays or disruptions are counted if received within seven days of Election Day; 
  • Permit third parties to assist voters in submitting their sealed mail ballots; 
  • Provide pre-paid postage for all mail ballots; and 
  • Impose uniform guidelines for mail ballot verification that mandate training for election officials engaged in signature matching and require officials to provide voters with notice and a reasonable opportunity to challenge any ballots that are rejected on the basis of signature matching.

“The right to vote is sacred. Older Americans take this civic responsibility very seriously,” said Dwayne Thomas, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter who lives in Republic, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. 

“There are more than two million seniors registered to vote in Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth is putting us in an impossible position,” Mr. Thomas continued. “Either we put our health at risk and stand in long lines on election day at one of the few open polling sites, or we vote absentee without any assurance that our ballots will either arrive at our homes or be returned to the Board of Elections on time. The Secretary of the Commonwealth must extend the deadline for returning absentee ballots, and also allow voters who may be unable to leave their home to have someone else deliver a ballot on their behalf. We are calling on the court to act now and ensure that older Pennsylvanians are able to cast a ballot that will be counted.”

The Pennsylvania Alliance appreciates the assistance from Priorities USA in this litigation. The lawsuit court filing can be found here .

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Contact: Lisa Cutler – 202/674-2052 or lcutler@retiredamericans.org

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans is a state affiliate of the national Alliance for Retired Americans and has 335,389 members statewide.

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