On Monday, December 4, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of disenfranchised voter plaintiffs in Luzerne County, allowing their suit against Luzerne County to proceed after facing a motion to dismiss. Lawyers Democracy Fund is proud to support plaintiffs William French and Melynda Anne Reese in their efforts to ensure that future voters’ rights are not violated as theirs were.
Mr. French and Ms. Reese attempted to vote at their assigned polling places on Election Day but were turned away due to a catastrophic paper shortage caused by Defendants’ noncompliance with the clear requirements of the Pennsylvania Election Code for the minimum number of paper ballots each polling place must have. Mr. French, a disabled Army veteran, and Ms. Reese, a caregiver to her dependent husband, both tried multiple times to vote on Election Day but could not vote due to Luzerne County’s failures which the court called “substantial burdens.”
The court’s decision continued:
The unconstitutional consequences of failing to give guidance let alone train election workers on how to manage ballot shortages is so patently obviously that the Plaintiffs here need not plead a pattern of pre-existing violations. Even if the failures on November 8, 2022, were an isolated incident, those failures were so acute that the training (or lack thereof) election workers received was so obviously inadequate that Defendant could reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs’ rights to vote. Regardless Plaintiffs have also pled a deeply concerning pattern of voting rights violations in Luzerne County including but not limited to an election worker throwing away voters’ ballots and voting machines printing ballots with errors.
Furthermore, the court is “not convinced” by defendants claims at this stage in the litigation “that there was no nefarious motive behind the inequitable allocation of paper.”
Lawyers Democracy Fund Executive Director Lisa Dixon reacted to the decision:
“Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, totally failed its voters on Election Day in 2022,” said Lisa Dixon, Executive Director of Lawyers Democracy Fund. “But in over a year since then, the county has ducked responsibility, has not apologized to its voters, and sought to have Mr. French and Ms. Reese’s lawsuit thrown out. We are happy that the court is allowing this case to move forward.”
Attorney for plaintiffs, Wally Zimolong, added:
“The Court issued a strong opinion in favor of plaintiffs’ claims brought to vindicate their sacred right to vote,” said Zimolong. “Luzerne County continues to give short shrift to plaintiffs’ claims and has chalked up the County’s embarrassing maladministration of the 2022 general election as a big mistake with promises that it will not happen again. The Court made clear that the consequences of the County’s failure to take proper steps to administer the election were patently obvious. Moreover, the Court made note that the 2022 general election issues were part of ‘a deeply concerning pattern of voting rights violations’ in the County.”
A trial is scheduled for next year.