Judge rules in favor of activists on paper ballots

A federal judge ruled took the side of voter rights groups today, ruling that paper ballots must be made available on Election Day in Pennsylvania if fifty percent of the machines at a polling place are broken.

A coalition of voters rights and civil rights groups sued the state after the PA Secretary of State decided to only provide paper ballots if all the machines were broken. They argued that voters could be disinfranchised if they had to wait in long lines for machine repairs.

Here's the press release from the group Voter Action:

Federal Judge Rules that More Emergency Paper Ballots Be Made Available

in Pennsylvania When Voters Face Voting Machine Breakdowns

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Federal Judge Harvey S. Bartle III ruled today that emergency paper ballots must be made available when fifty percent or more voting machines fail at polling locations across Pennsylvania. Judge Bartle, who is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued the ruling in favor of plaintiffs who had argued that voters could be disenfranchised by having to wait hours in line due to voting machine breakdowns. The plaintiffs presented testimony at an eight hour hearing yesterday before Judge Bartle that voters had faced such long lines caused by voting machine problems during the primary election in Pennsylvania in April, particularly in low-income minority neighborhoods.

“This is a huge victory for the voters of Pennsylvania,”said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This ruling will ensure that many voters across Pennsylvania will not be disenfranchised when voting machines break down on Election Day.”

The lawsuit followed numerous reports during Pennsylvania’s April primary of long lines when electronic voting machines became inoperable at their polling sites. Voters called national election protection hotlines on primary day, including 866-MYVOTE1, reporting that election officials were not providing emergency paper ballots when voting machines malfunctioned. Callers stated that voters were told either to wait in line – sometimes for hours – or to come back later to vote. The reports revealed that many voters left their polling locations without casting their votes.

The plaintiffs include in the case include the NAACP State Conference of Pennsylvania, individual voters who reported long lines and voting machine breakdowns during the state’s primary election in April, and the Election Reform Network, a local election integrity organization. The plaintiffs are represented by Voter Action, a national voting rights organization, the law firm of Emery Cell Brinckerhoff & Abady, and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.