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Category: Pennsylvania (page 2 of 3)

Why leave room for foul play? The 10-Foot Requirement

By Lance Woods:

Pennsylvania’s decision to continue to keep the press from entering polling stations draws an arbitrary line and leaves room for foul play by ensuring that the voting process is not as transparent as possible. Continue reading

Pennsylvania: Mediocre Student

By Adama Sirleaf

A new report by Common Cause, found that Pennsylvania is having mixed results in applying the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Alternatively, as WITF stated, “Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.” Continue reading

Pennsylvania Ballot Access Cost to Third Parties

By Adama Sirleaf

Pennsylvania’s ballot access process is one of the most hotly-contested in the country. On July 9, 2014, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties of Pennsylvania did have standing to bring a claim challenging Pennsylvania’s “method of checking ballot access petitions.” The plaintiffs challenged two provisions of Pennsylvania’s election code, Title 25 §§ 2911(b) and 2937 arguing that combined the two provisions are unconstitutional. The argument stems from the requirement of §2911(b) that minor parties and political organizations must obtain a certain number of signatures to get on the ballot. However, under §2937 if those signatures are successfully challenged the candidates may be held financially liable. Read together, these two provisions arguably act as a barrier for candidates of minor parties and political organizations. The appellate court merely ruled on standing and did not intend to prejudge the merits of the case. Continue reading

Educating Voters on a Law in Limbo: An Update on the Pennsylvania Voter ID Law

By Joshua Bohn

 Due to a preliminary injunction on Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law arising from Applewhite et al. v. Commonwealth, the 2013 Pennsylvania off-year general election occurred without being subject to the requirements of the law. As of this date, the judge responsible for issuing this preliminary injunction is still in the process of deliberating. This does not mean, however, that questions about Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID Law have dropped out of the public eye. On the contrary, the government of Pennsylvania and its agencies have spent a significant amount of money advertising the Voter ID Law. Pennsylvania’s Department of State brought back a new variant of its “show it” TV commercials from the 2012 election for this off-year general election. Critics opposed the ad campaign for being a costly use of state funds, and for having a potential to confuse would-be voters—especially if the court refuses to lift the injunction. Governor Tom Corbett and his administration defended the ad campaign; a spokesman argued that the commercials contain useful information in the event that the Voter ID Law is upheld.

Continue reading

An Extended Vacation for Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law

by Joshua Bohn, Contributor

On August 16, 2013, Pennsylvania Judge Bernard McGinley issued a preliminary injunction to block Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law from affecting Pennsylvania elections in November. This preliminary injunction was the result of a lawsuit, Applewhite v. Commonwealth. Though the trial concluded on July 31, 2013, the judge is still deliberating on whether a permanent injunction is appropriate. However, the preliminary injunction made it clear that Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show poll workers photo identification in order to vote in the 2013 November general election. The  injunction also restricted the voter ID law’s “soft rollout” features. These features would have required poll workers to inform voters that they would need photo ID to vote in the next election. The judge’s recent preliminary injunction does away with this requirement. Poll workers may still ask to see photo ID, but the voters still do not have to produce it in order to vote.  Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: ID Required to Vote! No Scratch That, Not Until Next Year

by Jenna Poligo

On October 2, 2012 Judge Robert Simpson issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Pennsylvania’s photo identification requirement for the upcoming election.  Judge Simpson, however, required the state to continue its 5 million dollar voter education program.  In addition, the injunction does not bar the state from requiring poll workers to request identification prior to voters casting a vote.  The injunction merely prohibits the state from preventing registered voters from voting if they fail to produce identification when asked on Election Day.

The continuation of the voter education program combined with the ability to ask voters to produce identification prior to voting runs the risk of creating serious confusion among voters.  In addition, the continued message to voters that valid identification is necessary to vote may deter many would-be voters from participating in this election.   Continue reading

Voter ID squabbles continue in Pennsylvania

by Patrick Genova

Starting this November voters in Pennsylvania will face stricter ID requirements at polling stations. A new law requires a voter to present an ID from a list of approved forms of identification each time before casting a ballot. Proponents of the new law, such as PA’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett, say the law will reduce fraud, but the new push for voter ID has many opponents asking about ulterior motives.

An Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism study found that voter impersonation occurred at a rate of only 1 in 15 million for in-person voting. By comparison, the PA Department of State and Transportation estimates that 9% of Pennsylvania’s eligible voters do not meet ID requirements. Analysts at the Brennan Center also point out that a five year prison sentence and $10,000 fine for each count of voter fraud makes it “a singularly foolish way to attempt to win an election.” Continue reading

Fashion Frenzy: Passive Electioneering and the Right to Vote

by Latisha Woodford

On Election Day, after you have rushed to the polls, how would you feel to be turned away because of your apparel? The regulation of voter apparel posed a real issue for residents in Pennsylvania. Residents of the state were prohibited from voting because they were wearing T-shirts endorsing candidates for office in the polling place. Subsequently, the electioneering battlegrounds were drawn, and the effects on the right to vote involved passive electioneering. Passive electioneering refers to the method of influencing voters by wearing campaign t-shirts or carrying pamphlets to the voting location.

Section 1220(c) of the Pennsylvania election code prohibits electioneering but the state law does not define the term. Subsequently, defining the scope of the term has been left to the individual interpretation of the County Boards of Elections. Local counties have interpreted the term differently. Many Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia and Allegheny, have long allowed voters to vote wearing clothing, stickers, and buttons endorsing candidates and there have been no disruptions or significant problems. These counties follow the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Department of State. In a memorandum  to the County Boards of Election the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of State recommended that voters be allowed to electioneer by passive methods. The Department believes that as long as the voters take no additional steps to attempt to influence voters in the polling place the right of the franchise should not be denied.

The memorandum resulted in pending litigation. The result of the pending case, Kraft v. Harhut, should end the statewide debate. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania  (ACLU) seeks to join the Commonwealth in challenging any effort to enforce a statewide dress code for voters. The ACLU does not endorse a narrow interpretation of the term electioneering. The ACLU opined that sustaining a narrow interpretation would implicate the First Amendment free speech rights. The primary concern of the ACLU is not to turn a registered voter away from the polls as well as the possibility of the rule to be applied in a discriminatory fashion. Nevertheless Lawrence County observes a narrow interpretation. The county will not allow passive electioneering and has turned away voters dressed in party endorsing apparel.

The argument for the implementation of a statewide dress code will rest heavily on the lower court’s interpretation of the state law. Lawrence County does not wish to make a distinction for lesser forms of electioneering. Also the pending lawsuit claims that allowing voters to wear partisanaffiliated clothing would affect the health and safety of voters. These arguments certainly may pass muster. The Supreme Court has historically held that restricting free speech at a polling place may be necessary to make sure voters may freely exercise a right to vote for the candidate of their choice. It is also wellestablished that the state has the right to protect voters from any confusion and undue influence within the polling place.

Whether party-endorsing apparel promotes an unsafe environment for voters remains unanswered. How the court will strike a balance remains questionable.


Latisha Woodford is a second-year student at William and Mary Law. 


Attempts to shine light on the dark side of politics

by Jamel Rowe

Corruption—the dark side of politics— is a problem that legislatures and the general public have been battling since the creation of the United States government. Recently, Pennsylvania made the eradication of corruption in judicial elections its primary goal by introducing House Bill 1815 and House Bill 1816 to the General Assembly.

In Pennsylvania, candidates for the appellate and trial court must run in partisan elections and, consequently, must affiliate themselves with a particular party. Then they must be elected by popular vote. Proponents of judicial elections support the system because they believe it promotes accountability. They argue that judges, who routinely make policy decisions, are in essence legislators.  As a result, judges should be held accountable to the public just like legislators; if they fail to live up to their campaign promises, the public should have the ability to oust them from office. Continue reading

Pennsylvania Voter ID Bill: The Embodiment of Discrimination or Weapon Against Voter Fraud?

by Jamel Rowe

Imagine that after months of living off of your meager savings, you can longer pay your rent and are subsequently evicted from your home. You, like an estimated 15,096 Pennsylvanians, have no permanent home. Regrettably, your homelessness could hinder your ability to vote.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R – Butler County) introduced House Bill 934 on March 4, 2011. It passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a 108-88 vote and is currently before the Senate.  As it stands, the current election laws require voters to show identification the first time they vote at a new polling location. If approved, the bill will require voters to show valid photo identification every time they vote, even though they may have voted at that particular polling location in the past.

The primary justification for this “common-sense safeguard” is to prevent voter fraud. In an interview with Comcast Newsmakers, Rep. Metcalfe stated that voter fraud is still a relevant concern as demonstrated by the 2009 investigation of ACORN employees in Pittsburgh for fraud. He also discussed how thousands of fraudulent voter registrations were filed in Philadelphia in 2005 and how 1500 of those registrations were turned over to the District Attorney for further investigation. Continue reading

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