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Federal Judge’s Ruling Blocks Efforts to Limit Pennsylvania Ballot Drop Boxes

LWV of Pennsylvania and Partners Joined Case as Intervenors to Represent Voter Interests 

PITTSBURGH, PA—Today, a federal judge issued a ruling in Trump v. Boockvar stating that voters must be allowed to utilize ballot drop-off locations other than county election board offices. The Trump campaign brought the case against secretary of the commonwealth Kathryn Boockvar in July, asking the court to limit ballot drop-off locations to one per county. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania was later admitted into the lawsuit, along with Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP, Common Cause Pennsylvania, and three individual voters. 

“The League joined this case to represent the interests of voters, many of whom will rely on nearby ballot drop boxes to return their ballots this year,” said Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “When adequately placed in densely populated communities, drop boxes ensure voters can hand deliver their ballots safely, with assurance that they will be counted. It is unconscionable to consider limiting drop boxes during a deadly pandemic, when the focus should be on expanding safe voting options—not restricting them further.” 

More than 2 million voters who have requested ballots in the state will be impacted by this ruling. The court stated in today’s decision that the plaintiffs did not prove they had standing to bring the constitutional claims raised. The court found that plaintiffs’ fear of security risk at drop boxes was not legitimate. 

“Today’s decision is a huge victory in the defense of voting rights,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “This case sought to limit safe, secure voter access in a high-interest election year during a deadly global pandemic. We are grateful that this nonsensical voter suppression attempt was halted in Pennsylvania today, and we are proud to stand up for voters’ rights whenever and wherever they are threatened.” 

The individual applicants—Pennsylvania residents Danielle Graham Robinson, Patricia M. Demarco, and Kathleen Wise—joined the motion because their ability to vote is threatened by the proposed limitations to voting by mail. The League and partners are represented by Lawyers Committee, ACLU Pennsylvania, WilmerHale, and Public Interest Law Center. 

“In a time when we are faced with substantial obstacles, drop boxes make it possible and safe for voters to engage in their constitutional right. We are pleased with this outcome that grants people more than one option to exercise their civic duty," said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of NAACP.

“Voter suppression has always been a tactic used to attempt to discourage or prevent certain voters from exercising their right to vote," said Kenneth Huston, president of NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference. "With the pandemic still a major dynamic in voting, I am very pleased to hear the decision of U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranja in dismissing the lawsuit with all of its challenges by President Trump’s campaign. Let’s do whatever we can to protect and encourage all to prepare to get out and vote.”

“Our government ‘by the people’ is stronger when more people are able to participate by voting,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “Today’s decision is a ‘win’ for voters—and for a government ‘by the people’—because it ensures Pennsylvania’s voters have clear choices about how to vote during this pandemic. People will be able to vote in-person on election day, vote-by-mail, or deposit their voted ballot in a drop box. Drop boxes are particularly important for voters who may not receive their mail ballots in time to mail them back. Voting is using your voice and we’re delighted voters have this option to be heard this election.” 

“The court recognized the gravity of the Trump campaign’s depraved attempt to undermine mail-in voting and put Pennsylvanians at risk in the middle of a deadly pandemic. This ruling is a huge victory for voters,” said Sarah Brannon, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. 

“A federal judge gave the Trump campaign every opportunity to put forward their strongest case and today found that they produced no credible evidence of fraud, failed to identify any voters who were injured, and did not show that the Pennsylvania Department of State was running the elections unconstitutionally. The Trump campaign should trust voters and let them vote,"  said Witold Walczak, legal director, ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“Today, the Court recognized what Pennsylvania law, the experience of voters in other states, and the evidence in this case made clear: drop boxes are a safe and secure tool for voters to return their mail ballots to election officials,” said Public Interest Law Center attorney Ben Geffen. “Now, our partners and our clients will work to ensure that Pennsylvania voters are informed of all of their options and that our election on November 3 is orderly, free, and equal.”

“This is a major victory for voters across Pennsylvania, particularly Black and Latino voters who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic," said John Powers, attorney, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "This ruling is especially timely on the heels of questionable poll watching activity in Philadelphia which underscores the need to reign in outsider intimidation efforts.”

The last day for Pennsylvania voters to request an absentee ballot for the November 3 election is October 27, 2020. Voted ballots must be postmarked by Election Day in order to be counted. Voters can find their nearest drop box at the Pennsylvania State Department’s Official Voter Information Website

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PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]