August 3, 2020 — In a major development with implications for the 2020 presidential election, a federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has allowed three nonpartisan advocacy organizations and three voters to intervene in a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s campaign against the commonwealth and all 67 counties that seeks to restrict several election administration practices that are necessary to allow people to vote safely in November.
The intervenors are the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and the three voters from Allegheny County. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm WilmerHale.
“We are grateful that the court understands why our clients should be part of this case,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The Trump campaign is cynically trying to suppress the vote by making it harder for people in Pennsylvania to cast their ballots. The advocates and voters in this case want to guarantee that all voters of all political affiliations can freely exercise their right to vote this fall.”
“The court’s action recognizes the gravity of the Trump campaign’s unconscionable attempt to undermine mail-in voting, which unnecessarily puts Pennsylvanians at risk in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic,” said Sarah Brannon, managing director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
In its complaint, the Trump campaign is seeking to undermine several practices in Pennsylvania’s election process, including the provision of secure drop boxes for submitting mail and absentee ballots. The advocates and voters who intervened note that properly secured drop boxes provide people with a safe, secure, and accessible way to vote, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Pennsylvania’s June primary election, some counties set up secure drop boxes in various locations where voters could deliver their mail and absentee ballots.
Secure drop boxes would make it easier for voters to safely exercise their constitutional right to vote as we take on a global pandemic.
“Millions of Americans have cast ballots by mail, including President Trump and several plaintiffs in this lawsuit,” said Ben Geffen, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “This fundamental part of our democracy must be protected, and secure drop boxes would make it easier for voters to safely exercise their constitutional right to vote as we take on a global pandemic.”
“Secure ballot drop boxes are a critical part of ensuring that all eligible Pennsylvania voters can vote in a safe, secure, and accessible election, particularly given the increased reliance on mail ballot voting during the COVID pandemic,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “Many people didn’t receive their ballots in time to mail them back before the deadline. Without the drop boxes, all those people would have been forced to choose between risking their health, by voting in person, or losing their ability to vote. No voter should have to make that choice.”
“Once again, we’re witnessing a deliberate attempt by the Trump campaign to quell the vote and voice of constituents from across this country,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “If we are to have a safe and fair election, mail-in ballots and secure ballot drop boxes must be protected during this unprecedented time. COVID-19 has taken a severe toll on the Black community and people of color; we can’t let the Trump campaign enact further damage by suppressing our ability to vote securely.”
“We are grateful the court saw the need for groups like the League to bring voters’ voices to the table in this important case,” said Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “When partisan fights threaten voter access, they threaten our democracy. We will always step in to represent the interests of voters when the accessibility of our elections is on the line.”
With the general election looming in three months, the federal court has scheduled a hearing on the lawsuit for September 22.
The case, Trump for President v. Boockvar, is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.