(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)
ALLENTOWN — Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin is warning voters that detectives will monitor ballot drop-off locations and anyone caught dropping off more than one mail-in ballot could be prosecuted.
“If voters are observed dropping off more than one ballot, they may face prosecution and could be exposed to fines and penalties not to exceed $2,500 or be imprisoned for a term up to two years, or both, as provided in the Election Code,” Martin said in a press release issued Tuesday.
Martin’s warning comes three weeks after he announced an investigation by his office found at least 288 cases where people deposited more than one ballot in a voting drop-box last fall — a violation of state voting law.
But Martin said at that time there would be no prosecutions because it was impossible to determine the identity of most of the violators.
No-excuse, mail-in ballots remain legal in Pennsylvania – even as Senate Republicans in Harrisburg have moved to eliminate ballot drop-off boxes, and the fate of Act 77, which allowed no-excuse ballots, is in the hands of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Under the law, a person may deposit only one ballot envelope. Martin said county detectives will physically monitor Lehigh County’s five drop-off locations and will review 24-hour video surveillance recordings.
“Voters should be aware that it is a violation even if the voter only deposits his/her spouse’s or another family member’s ballot in addition to their own,” Martin, a Republican, said.
In addition to the warning to voters, Martin sent an April 26 email and letter to Lehigh County Executive Phil Armstrong, a Democrat, and the county Election Board suggesting that an explicit warning be placed prominently on drop-boxes stating that voters should return only their ballot and indicating possible penalties they face.
Martin said he hopes that the possibility of that penalty being imposed will be a deterrent to violating the Pennsylvania Election Code and that voters will abide by both the letter and the spirit of the law.
Martin’s warning comes as Lehigh County’s five drop-off locations will open for mail-in ballot drop-offs on May 2.
Katherine Reinhard covers Allentown and the Lehigh Valley for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. This piece is republished from Armchair Lehigh Valley, where it first appeared.
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