The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s absentee-ballot rules Tuesday, alleging that voters are being disenfranchised by the state’s tight deadlines for returning ballots. “This is not about trying to game the system for one party or another,” ACLU of Pennsylvania legal director Vic Walczak told WESA. “This is about trying to make sure that every voter who was duly registered and wants to vote is able to cast a ballot.” “Pennsylvania has the earliest absentee ballot receipt deadline of any state in the country,” the complaint contends. The time frames are so tight, it says, that many voters are unable to mail them back to county elections officials in time. “Pennsylvania’s Election Code establishes a deadline for receiving completed absentee ballots that regularly disenfranchises Pennsylvanians who … receive their absentee ballot so late that they cannot fill it out and mail it back to election officials before the Election Code deadline.”
The suit faults cuts to the United States Postal Service for slowing ballot delivery. And it contends that some 300,000 absentee ballots have not been returned by Pennsylvania voters since 2009 — including 46,000 for the 2016 presidential election alone. The presidential race here was decided by just over 44,000 votes that year.
The complaint seeks to have the current deadline for the county to receive ballots — set by state law at the Friday before election day — deemed unconstitutional.
The case’s nine plaintiffs include voters from across the state, ranging from a journalist assigned to work in South Dakota to a paramedic who had to work a 24-hour shift on Election Day. Each met the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot and mailed it back after receiving one — only to have it reach county elections offices after the deadline. The ACLU, which provides “election protection” services to absentee and other voters, is also a plaintiff.