NAACP sues to count emergency ballots tonight

Cynthia Henry reports at 6 pm:

The NAACP-Philadelphia Branch and its members sued Philadelphia County this afternoon to force election officials to count emergency paper ballots as soon as polls close tonight, instead of waiting until Friday as announced.

The case is being heard in Philadelphia’s special Election Court tonight.

“The fact that these ballots are being treated differently raises serious constitutional issues,” said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

A coalition of Pennsylvania voters and civil rights groups won a lawsuit last week when federal Judge Harvey S. Bartle III ruled that emergency paper ballots must be made available when 50 percent or more voting machines fail at polling places in Pennsylvania. Bartle said voters could be disenfranchised by having to wait hours in line due to voting machine breakdowns.

In directions issued Oct. 31, the state instructed counties to count ballots on election night.

“Emergency paper ballots must be treated as regular ballots and must be counted on election night,” Bonifaz said,

He had not heard whether any other counties had planned to delay counting the ballots, but if so, the Philadelphia lawsuit “should put them on notice.”

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