As Pennsylvania election staff members continue to count votes, demonstrators are gathering across the state to show support for a full count.
Social justice and immigrant advocacy groups held events this week in the city of Lancaster, Montgomery County, and on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg. Organizers said they are following through on their efforts to get out the vote in marginalized communities.
Thaís Carrero, Pennsylvania director of the immigrant and Latino advocacy group CASA, said these efforts forged ahead in the face of obstacles new and old: “From COVID to language access and all the barriers that come to disenfranchised communities. We cannot stop,” she said. “This is the last push to ensure that every vote is counted.”
CASA member Ramon Ortiz spoke about the challenges of casting his vote this year.
“My experience was a mix of emotions,” he said: dignity, excitement, and anger.
First, he said, the mail-in ballot arrived in English, instead of Spanish. Later, when he went to the elections office to verify his vote had been recorded, he learned his vote in 2018 had not.
Becky Belcore of the Woori Center in Montgomery County said the organization has been working for months to ensure Korean and Asian voters can cast their ballots – despite barriers like language access. Volunteers helped people vote by mail and provided interpretation at some polling stations.
“We weren’t able to provide that at all the polls where people were at, we don’t have the capacity. So we hope that will change and eventually it will be mandated that there will be resources to provide translators at the polls,” she said.
The Voting Rights Act requires three counties in Pennsylvania, including Berks, to translate election materials into Spanish. But, no other language groups meet the population threshold that activates the provision, known as Section 203.
Belcore emphasized the importance of counting every ballot among immigrants, for whom the right to vote was not automatic. “People believe in our democracy and they believe that every single vote should be counted,” she said.
Speakers expressed concerns with President Donald Trump’s campaign’s legal challenges in Pennsylvania, which sought to stop the count as the results show former Vice President Joe Biden accumulated more votes. Even before Election Day, pollsters predicted that Biden would generally fare better with mail-in ballots, which, due to Pennsylvania’s election laws, take longer to count.
“Ignore all the noise. These lawsuits are not just,” Kadida Kenner of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said.
The event closed with demonstrators chanting in Spanish, Korean, and English, repeating variations on a theme: “I am somebody and I deserve full equality, right here, right now.”
Unlike a similar event in Philadelphia, there were no counter-protesters on hand.
Supporters of Trump have gathered to demand the count stop, citing his baseless claims of fraud.
Central Pa. organizations are planning more demonstrations in favor of counting all the votes for over the weekend.
Read more from our partners, WITF.