voter counting

Pennsylvania Democratic Party v. Boockvar

Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: October 10, 2020

In 2019, Pennsylvania enacted a law allowing all qualified voters the opportunity to vote by mail, without needing to prove some form of special eligibility. On July 10, 2020, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party filed a petition for review, seeking to clarify certain provisions of the law, including the placement of drop-boxes, the ballot receipt deadline, the process for curing potential defects in ballots that would result in them being excluded from the canvass, the handling of secrecy envelopes meant to cover ballots, and the ability to poll watchers to observe elections. While these issues would have been important in the first year of implementation regardless, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and record participation in absentee balloting – as well as various hotly contested races in Pennsylvania – they took on new importance.

Following the filing of the initial complaint, the ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm WilmerHale moved to intervene in the case. Together, we represented three individual voters, the Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and Make the Road Pennsylvania. The court denied this request, but allowed these clients to file briefs before it as amici curiae, or friends of the court. Ultimately, on September 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision, largely agreeing with the positions we argued. Specifically, the court held that county boards of elections could set up drop boxes for ballots, and ruled that because of well-documented issues with the postal service, any ballots that arrive by 5:00 pm on the Friday after Election Day would be counted, rather than by Election Day itself.

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