ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed suit to get undated ballots counted
On today’s episode of The Confluence:
County elections officials are told to ‘segregate’ undated mail-in ballots, but voting rights groups are trying to ensure they’re counted
(0:00 - 8:48)
Late Friday the ACLU on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other groups filed suit in federal court in Pittsburgh seeking to have votes from mail-in or absentee ballots counted, even if they lack proper dates on their return envelopes.
“About 1% to 2% of voters either forget to put the date on there or they put an incorrect date like their birth date,” says Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The ACLU has been arguing since January in a lawsuit we filed that those dates are completely irrelevant. They do not affect a voter's eligibility and they do not impact whether the vote is received on time, so those votes should count.”
Walczak says undated ballots may not be counted until the lawsuit is resolved, but he guesses there could be a resolution as early as the end of the month.
Allegheny County has released a list of voters whose ballots were received but not correctly dated, and voters can resolve the issue by voting provisionally Tuesday or by visiting the elections office.
Some counties have significantly reduced the number of ballot drop-boxes available for voters
(8:54 - 16:12)
One change from the 2020 election to now is that in some counties, ballot drop boxes are fewer and far between.
In Westmoreland County, there was a big push to make drop boxes available for the 2020 election, and the county elections office put out six, but as of this election, there are now zero available.
“Westmoreland County Commission chair Sean Kertes says they're too expensive,” says Aaron Mendelson, a reporter with the investigative newsroom, Center for Public Integrity. “[Democrat County Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher] strongly disagrees with that. She says drop boxes are helpful to senior citizens, voters with disabilities, and says that it's part of the national right wing push to target drop boxes.”
Mendelson says research in other states have shown drop boxes modestly increase voter turnout, but in some states and counties, others are arguing, without evidence, the boxes are susceptible to tampering or voter fraud.
Fentanyl test strips are now decriminalized in Pennsylvania
(16:16 - 22:30)
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. Prior to this, the test strips were defined as drug paraphernalia and considered illegal.
“We see this as a really important first step in recognizing the rights of people who use drugs to have access to tools that can help them protect their health,” says Alice Bell, coordinator for Prevention Point Pittsburgh’s Overdose Prevention Project.
Bell says an appropriate “next step” would be the passage of Senate Bill 926, which would make it legal to possess sterile injection equipment, and reduce the spread of bloodborne infections.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.