Lawsuit Could Affect County Drop-Off Vote Boxes

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service
for The Post

PHILADELPHIA PA – Civil rights groups are calling a Trump campaign lawsuit over mail-in ballots an attempt to suppress voting, and they’re challenging that effort in court.

The lawsuit seeks to make it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to vote by mail, and to have those votes counted during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of civil rights and voting rights organizations have taken legal action to intervene as defendants in the legal action.

Ben Geffen, a staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia, notes more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians used mail-in ballots in the June primary. Record numbers also seem likely to do so for the general election in November.

“Voting by mail makes it easier to vote and it does not open the door to widespread fraud of the sort that the plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege,” Geffen contends.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit want to stop voters from depositing absentee ballots in secure drop-off vote boxes instead of mailboxes, a system on which a sizable number of Montgomery County voters relied during the 2020 primaries. It included sites in Pottstown and Green Lane.

On Friday (July 17, 2020), the judge set hearings in the case for Sept. 22-23.

Geffen claims drop-off vote boxes were needed because the pandemic forced many primary polling places to close. “This was a lawful and appropriate response to a dramatic situation. There’s every indication there will be similar problems in November, and that the solution of drop boxes will again be necessary,” he said.

And he charges there is a high degree of inconsistency on the part of those who filed the lawsuit, including Republican members of Congress representing Pennsylvania. “The president of the United States himself voted by mail in the most recent election in his new home state of Florida,” Geffen points out. “Two plaintiffs in this very lawsuit voted by mail in last month’s primary in Pennsylvania.”

Organizations intervening in the lawsuit include the Pennsylvania NAACP, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Pennsylvania. Geffen adds that counties need to begin making preparations now for the November election.

Public News Service note: Support for this reporting was provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Photo by Scott McLeod via Flickr, modified by The Post, and used under a Creative Commons license