Resource: Disability Rights Penn. v. Boockvar

By: COVID-Related Election Litigation Tracker

September 5, 2020

Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

Disability Rights Pennsylvania; SeniorLAW Center; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, Inc. (SEAMAAC); Suzanne Erb; The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia (Petitioners), challenged the constitutionality of sections 1302, 1302.1, 1302.2, and 1308 of the 2019 Omnibus Amendments to the Pennsylvania Election Code (Act 77). Petitioners filed their suit against Kathy Boockvar, in her capacity as Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Jessica Mathis, in her capacity as Director of the Bureau of Election Services and Notaries of the Pennsylvania Department of State (Respondents) claiming the deadline for receipt of absentee and mail-in ballots violates (1) Pennsylvania’s Free and Equal Elections Clause, Art. I, §5,; (2) Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free Expression and Association Clauses, Art. I, §§7, 20; (3) Pennsylvania Constitution ’s Equal Protection Guarantees, Art. 1, §§ 1, 26; (4) Article VII, Section 14(a) of the Pennsylvania Constitution (Absentee Voting Guarantee). Pennsylvania law provides for two categories of voters who are permitted to vote by means other than voting in person at a polling location: absentee voters and mail-in voters. Any registered voter who does not qualify as an absentee voter may apply to submit their ballot by mail-in voting, without providing a justification. Under Pennsylvania law, a mail-in or absentee ballot will not be counted unless it is received by a county election board “on or before eight o’clock P.M. the day of the primary or election" (“receive by” deadline). Petitioners claim that due to the COVID 19 pandemic and increased numbers of absentee and mail in ballots, the “receive by” deadline will disenfranchise many voters who timely mail in their ballot but they arrive too late due to the delays caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.