Pennsylvania Election Officials Must Act Now to Comply with New Registration Law

Failure to meet 15-day processing deadline will disenfranchise voters 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2020

PITTSBURGH–All Voting is Local, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Ceiba, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Protect Democracy sent a letter to election officials in seven Pennsylvania counties Friday warning that voters will be disenfranchised if those jurisdictions do not comply with the commonwealth’s new law–Act 77–which shortens the window to process voter registrations from 30 days to 15. 

The letter states: “Ultimately, the Elections Division’s office must process voter registration applications as required by Act 77 and take meaningful steps to communicate these changes to the public, so that no eligible voter is disenfranchised.”

To ensure voters can make their voices heard in the April 28 primary election, the organizations urge county election officials in Delaware, Allegheny, Lehigh, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Berks counties to act swiftly by:

  • Seeking best practices from other states jurisdictions that employ 15-day registration deadlines and same-day registration.
  • Notifying every voter of this deadline change before April 1 — including by phone, text, email, and USPS mail. 
  • Publicizing the new registration deadline through public service announcements.
  • Working with voting rights groups to make sure that election officials receive voter registration applications as soon as possible to ensure that no voters will be disenfranchised in the 2020 elections.

Last October, Pennsylvania enacted a sweeping election reform bill known as Act 77. While the law gives people more time to register, voting rights groups are concerned that voters could be harmed if elections officials are not prepared to process registration applications during the shorter 15-day window. 

The letter notes that not only do Alabama, Nebraska, and South Dakota have 15-day registration deadlines, but 19 states and the District of Columbia offer same-day registration and early voting. If large municipalities in 22 states can make these deadlines work, so can Pennsylvania’s counties, the letter states. 

The letter to Delaware County can be found here.

The letter to Allegheny County can be found here.

The letter to Lehigh County can be found here

The letter to Lancaster County can be found here

The letter to Montgomery County can be found here

The letter to Philadelphia County can be found here.

The letter to Berks County can be found here

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All Voting is Local fights to eliminate needless and discriminatory barriers to voting before they happen, to build a democracy that works for us all. It is a collaborative campaign housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; the American Constitution Society; the Campaign Legal Center; and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. For more information about All Voting is Local, visit https://allvotingislocal.org and follow us on Twitter @votingislocal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization dedicated to defending and expanding individual rights and personal freedoms throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania. Through advocacy, public education and litigation, our staff and volunteers work to preserve and enhance liberties grounded in the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions and civil rights laws. 

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. CLC holds candidates and government officials accountable regardless of political affiliation. For more information, visit campaignlegal.org and follow us on Twitter @CampaignLegal.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 56th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The Lawyers’ Committee leads Election Protection, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection program anchored by the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline.

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government. To learn more about Protect Democracy’s work, visit www.protectdemocracy.org and follow us on Twitter @protctdemocracy.