Election protection groups calls on Legislature to address voting issues

    Responding to claims from state officials that “no widespread” issues occurred during the commonwealth’s primary election Tuesday, election protection advocates disagreed, saying even small issues need to be addressed. 

    “No issue is too small. Too often we say that issues like these are common in every election. But they shouldn’t be and they don’t have to be. Imagine that it was you who lost your opportunity to exercise your right in this election,” Olyvia Armstrong, Voting Access Campaign Manager for Keystone Votes said in a statement. 

    In a briefing with reporters Tuesday night, acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid said the issues reported – which included ballot shortages, inaccurate ballot headers and unscannable ballots – were “isolated incidents.”

    The Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition, a nonpartisan group of more than 100 organizations, called on the state Legislature to address the issues: 

    “That these problems occurred during a low turnout primary only underscores how much work the state still must do to modernize its election system to ensure voters have 21st century convenience and access to the ballot box. … The legislature currently is examining these issues, and that must include ensuring counties have the funds they need to administer any new requirements. As important as reforms like early voting and vote centers are, it is essential that counties have the funds to purchase and implement electronic poll books, or e-poll books, technology that is already widely available to ensure the process is safe, seamless and convenient.”

    The 2021 Pennsylvania primary elections were the state’s third go-around with “no excuse” mail-in ballots. 

    Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Degraffenreid said she did “expect that they [poll workers] learned a lot from last year, but added that it “will take a while” for official results to come in. 

    Pennsylvania’s election law, Act 77, does not allow for mail-in ballots to be pre-canvassed before polls close, a change election officials have advocated for. 

    An ‘off-year’ election? There’s no such thing for these local officials. 

    “Nothing should stand between voters and the ballot box, but we continue to see bureaucratic and institutional barriers that make it difficult or impossible for Pennsylvanians to exercise their right to vote,” Armstrong said. 

    Members of the Election Protection Coalition include ACLU-Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, Keystone Votes, University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, All Voting is Local, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Fair Elections Center, CASA, Make the Road Pennsylvania, One Pennsylvania, Committee of 70, SEAMAAC, and the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP).

    Cassie Miller
    A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.