LDF Vice President Tom Spencer wrote about how a last-minute rules change in Pennsylvania added to the chaos of holding a primary amidst a pandemic and public unrest:
The protests and unrest in response to the tragic death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody last week, and the COVID-19 public health crisis have greatly complicated the work of election officials attempting to conduct honest and fair voting.
If that were not enough, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf unilaterally amended the state’s election laws hours before primary voters arrived at the polls on Tuesday, only adding to the chaos.
Late Monday evening, Wolf issued an executive order extending the mail-in ballot return deadline in six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties by an entire week, adding to the list of unexpected changes that have occurred leading up to Pennsylvania’s primary. . . .
Last-minute changes to election rules, whether from executive orders like Wolf’s or from court decisions, have the grave potential to undermine the fairness and honesty of elections and the public’s confidence in their fairness.
Want to learn more about mail voting as states respond to COVID-19?
Voting by mail presents particular challenges both for the integrity of the voting process and for the voter’s confidence that his or her ballot has been counted. Find out more here.
LDF was quoted regarding mail ballots in an article on the impact of the novel coronavirus on elections:
Beyond delays that could undermine public confidence in election results, some critics of vote-by-mail also argue it is less secure than in-person voting.
“If there are widespread service disruptions due to illness and quarantines, the mail may not be a reliable way for people to submit their ballots,” said Lisa Dixon, publications director for the Lawyers Democracy Fund. “Mail ballots also are an easy vehicle for election manipulation by bad actors, as the secrecy of the voting booth cannot be maintained outside a polling place.”
According to Dixon, state and local election officials have contingency plans for disasters and they appear to be taking COVID-19 seriously, trying to protect both public health and the integrity of elections. As they prepare to mitigate the risk in their communities, a national decree from Congress may cause more problems than it solves.
“At this point, it is important for voters to remember that election officials are committed to running a fair election and protecting citizens’ right to vote,” she said. “The best thing that individuals can do now is to follow health officials’ advice to contain the spread of the virus and allow election officials to make their contingency plans in the hope that they will not be necessary.”
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