May 4, 2020 — Last week, groups representing voters who are most at risk from COVID-19 filed suit in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. They demand that Pennsylvania allow all mail-in and absentee ballots sent or postmarked by Election Day and received within seven days to be counted during this public health emergency—extending the current deadline, which requires all ballots to be received by Election Day.
Today, these voters have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to extend the deadline immediately while the case proceeds. In their brief in support of the motion, they argue that enforcing the current mail-in ballot deadline for the June 2 primary election—when counties across the state face backlogs of thousands of applications and postal delays—could potentially disenfranchise thousands of voters.
Disability Rights Pennsylvania, the SeniorLAW Center, the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC), the Barrister’s Association of Philadelphia, and voter Suzanne Erb are represented by the Public Interest Law Center and pro bono co-counsel from Arnold & Porter.
“Changing the received-by deadline to a mailed-by deadline is a simple fix that will help ensure that thousands of Pennsylvanians can cast effective ballots in the upcoming primary and exercise their basic constitutional rights,” said Arnold & Porter partner Elisabeth Theodore.
If voters who requested an absentee or mail-in ballot are concerned that postal delays will prevent their ballot from arriving in time, they must appear in person at a polling place to cast a provisional ballot—putting themselves at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. As of April 30, Pennsylvania has received 880,000 applications for mail-in or absentee ballots.
“An election can only be free if voters are safe,” staff attorney Ben Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center. “The Primary Election is less than a month away, and we need to act now to make sure that no Pennsylvanian feels the need to choose between casting a ballot and protecting their health.”