Pennsylvania Elected Leaders, Advocates Urge Allegheny County Officials to Expand Voting Access for General Election

Pittsburgh, PA— This afternoon, All Voting is Local, SEIU Healthcare PA, SEIU 32BJ, Pittsburgh United, Casa San Jose, Just Harvest, and Circles Greater Pittsburgh held a virtual press briefing to call on Allegheny County officials to adopt satellite county election offices, ballot drop boxes, hazard pay for poll workers, and enough polling places for voters on Election Day.

A recording of today’s press briefing can be found here.

“Every decision about our elections needs to be made in the best interest of voters’ health, safety, and the sanctity of our democracy,” said Aerion Abney, special projects director, All Voting is Local. “It is the responsibility of our state and county officials to ensure fair access to the ballot. These common sense requests ensure that voters have the options to safely cast their ballots this election. Voters should not have to choose between their health and participating in our democracy.”

“In this election, the fate of our democracy hangs in the balance,” said Sam Williamson, western PA district leader, 32BJ SEIU. “We must work to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised and make it easier for citizens to participate in this election. This is why it’s so important that local officials act now, and act boldly in accordance with the recommendations that will be laid out today, to ensure that every eligible Allegheny County resident can vote and can do so safely and efficiently in accordance with the laws of this state.”

“Protecting the vote, particularly protecting the vote of our most vulnerable communities, means protecting democracy,” said Tammy Thompson, Executive Director of Circles of Greater Pittsburgh. “Making sure there are enough polling locations across the county, providing tents, and heating sources for people who may be waiting in long lines is paramount to protecting the vote of ALL people. We cannot underestimate the potential for unforeseen inadequacies in our election system due to COVID-19 or, quite frankly, those who will do anything to cause chaos and harm to our system of democracy. Democracy must be protected at all costs.”

“Public trust in government is essential to American democracy and Allegheny County must act to foster that trust this election year by securing the public faith in election safety and security,” said Chatham University Political Science Professor Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman

“It is the Allegheny County Board of Elections’ and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s responsibility to protect public health and ensure access for all voters this November,” said Bethany Hallam, a member of the Allegheny County Council. “Additional in-person voting sites would help reduce congestion and better protect public health and access to voting. Frontline essential workers have worked tirelessly leading us through this pandemic–the least we can do is provide them safe, secure access to voting.” 

“I believe drop off boxes will be a great way of adding value to our election process,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Ed Gainey. “It will be a tremendous voting asset to our senior and elderly population. It would provide places inside the community in which people could drop off the voting ballot and feel good about their participation in our democracy. If we can’t do it now hopefully in the near future we will be able to.”

Background
More than 30 advocacy organizations representing thousands of Allegheny County residents and frontline workers sent a letter to the Allegheny County Board of Elections requesting it to take action immediately. The letter can be found here.

While many of Pennsylvania’s largest counties have announced plans for satellite election offices and drop boxes, Allegheny County officials have failed to do their part. Amid an unprecedented public health crisis that has already claimed the lives of at least 7,635 Pennsylvanians and a political attack on the United States Postal Service that threatens to slow the return of mail ballots prior to Election Day, it’s critical that county officials act on this opportunity to better protect public health and the integrity of our elections by expanding access to safe voting options.