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October 12, 2020 – A federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s mail ballot drop boxes, county residency restriction for poll watchers, and other voting rules, rejecting claims of “voter fraud” as too “speculative” and supported by “scant” evidence. The ruling, in Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar, will ensure that eligible Pennsylvania voters can vote safely this year.
“Access to mail voting is essential to ensure that Pennsylvania voters can safely cast their ballots despite the coronavirus pandemic,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and CEO of PennFuture, which along with the Sierra Club joined the suit as defendant-intervenors. “This ruling safeguards the right of those voters to make their voices heard.”
The state of Pennsylvania has taken several steps this year to facilitate vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, so that voters concerned about the safety of voting in person would have the option of casting their ballots by mail. These steps included accepting mail ballots at secure drop boxes.
On June 29, 2020, President Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, several members of Congress, and several individual voters sued Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, originally seeking an injunction banning the use of mail ballot drop boxes altogether.
On September 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on some of the state law issues at play in the federal case – including deciding that Pennsylvania election law permits the use of ballot drop boxes. Federal litigation resumed, and the parties completed summary judgment briefing on October 5, 2020. In today’s ruling, the Judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ remaining claims and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and defendant-intervenors.
“This is a victory against what is clearly a brazen attempt to suppress the votes of Pennsylvanians,” said Tom Torres, Director of the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “At a time when the integrity of our public institutions is in question, this decision is a welcome reminder that the embers of our democracy are still warm.”
The plaintiffs’ challenge was based on the false premise that voting by mail “invites fraud and undermines the public’s confidence in the integrity of elections.” After extensive discovery, the plaintiffs produced no credible evidence for this claim, and indeed studies indicate that vote by mail fraud is vanishingly rare.
In opposing the suit, PennFuture and the Sierra Club, represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, argued that the plaintiffs sought to impose unnecessary burdens on Pennsylvanians’ ability to vote, limits that would have required some voters to travel long distances (thereby incurring expenses) to have their ballots counted.
“The plaintiffs sought to reduce the choices Pennsylvania voters have for casting their ballots at a time when those choices are more important than ever,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. “Today’s ruling represents a big step forward in the fight to preserve voting rights against efforts to diminish our democracy.”
The court’s ruling is here.
Case background is here.