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Court Orders Pa. to Provide Paper Ballots

By Mary Pat Flaherty
Anticipating high voter turnout and a repeat of equipment problems that caused delays during Pennsylvania's April primary, a federal judge late Wednesday ordered the state's polling places to offer emergency paper ballots when half the voting machines at a polling place don't work.

During the presidential primary, voters in various Pennsylvania counties reported leaving polling sites without voting or enduring hours-long waits when machines failed. Their experiences were recounted as part of a case filed by the Pennsylvania conference of the NAACP and other voting rights groups against Pedro A. Cortes, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Until the court order, polling places wouldn't have been allowed to offer emergency ballots unless all of the machines at a polling place were not operational, according to rules laid out by Cortes. The voting rights case challenged the "100 percent" rule, arguing that voters would suffer irreparable harm if it was not changed.

Judge Harvey Bartle III, chief judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, agreed and said protecting "the constitutional right to vote" outweighed the "minimal" harm to counties that now must keep an adequate supply of paper ballots on hand, teach staff when to issue them and tally more paper ballots on Nov. 4. Of the state's 67 counties, 50 use touchscreen voting machines as their primary equipment.

Pennsylvania's voting rolls have increased by 400,000 new registrations in advance of Nov. 4, a rise the judge called an "extraordinary" amount that could further test a system strained by the turnout in April.

Bartle wrote that "there is a real danger that a significant number of machines will malfunction" in the state and the problems are "likely to cause unacceptably long lines on November 4."

In Philadelphia, for example, more than 90 percent of precincts have no more than two voting machines. Elections officials there told the court that roving repair teams were available to address problems, most often involving dead batteries and broken printers, but that even these minor repairs could take approximately an hour to correct once poll workers called for help -- and that delays are even longer when machines must be replaced. During the primary, according to testimony, machines had to be replaced 15 times in Philadelphia alone.

Some waiting "is inevitable and must be expected," Bartle wrote in his decision, but "there can come a point when the burden of standing in a queue ceases to be an inconvenience or annoyance and becomes a constitutional violation."

"Life does not stop on election day," Bartle wrote, and "many must vote early or in the evening if they are to vote at all," making time of the essence for them. "There is no rain date," he wrote.

John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action and co-counsel for the plaintiffs said, "There is no question we were looking at a significant voting rights disaster before this ruling and we are hopeful that has been averted."

Cortes' office said in a statement that it will work with counties to make sure stores of emergency ballots are ready. "That said, we hope emergency paper ballots will not need to be used extensively on Election Day," in light of contingency plans counties already had in place for repairs, the statement said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 29, 2008; 9:54 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Battlegrounds , DEPT. OF JURISPRUDENCE , The Voters  
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Next: RNC Pushes Obama Experience Argument


I can only hope that Americans rediscover their historical wisdom in this election.

Let's put an end to a terrible mess and effect some profound and positive changes for this great nation.


Posted by: vicweast | October 30, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse

McCain is in more trouble than he knows.
Huckabee Hearts Obama?? Watch Video.

See the Sarah Palin Look Alike Contest and Vote on the Winner.

Posted by: pastor123 | October 30, 2008 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Drudge is tanking!!!! Yes!!

"Mr Drudge’s dominance has been undermined by competition. His sensibility infuriated so many people that left-leaning sites such as the Daily Kos sprung up to challenge him. Lately, his thunder has been stolen by the Huffington Post, an unlikely blend of leftwing blogging, reporting and aggregation founded by Arianna Huffington, the media gadfly.

The Huffington Post has leapt past the Drudge Report in traffic, attracting 4.5m unique users in September, compared with 2.1m for Drudge and 2.4m for Politico, a political news site."

Posted by: wpost4112 | October 30, 2008 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Herbert Hoover Raised Corporate Taxes Just Before The Great Depression- Obama wants to repeat THAT Experience!

Obama gives the middle class a $1200 tax cut and more unemployment, as American business will shift more jobs overseas- Even John Kerry Knew That in 2004- proposed a corp tax CUT, and Bill Clinton called removing the payroll tax cap REGRESSIVE- Obama wants to do that too!

McCain wants to give the Middle Class a $300 tax cut and a JOB ina a business friendly environment-

Kevin Hassett

So what explains the advantage gained from locating production overseas?

The most powerful factor appears to be taxes. The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate among the world's most developed economies. With a combined federal and state tax rate of 39.3 percent, the U.S. taxes corporations at a rate that is 10 percentage points higher than the average of other nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In a world of tight margins, a 10-percentage-point disadvantage is humongous. And the U.S. rate is well above that of countries such as Ireland, which has enjoyed an economic boom that coincided with a reduction in corporate taxes to 12.5 percent.

Let's Do It

When companies locate offshore, they can transfer much of their profits to foreign subsidiaries. Thus they avoid U.S. taxes until that time in the distant future when they ship the money home. This helps U.S. companies stay competitive vis-a-vis those already located in low-tax countries. It doesn't create many jobs in the U.S.

This is hardly a partisan issue. Indeed, Democratic Senator John Kerry wisely included a reduction in corporate taxes in his 2004 presidential platform.

Posted by: thecannula | October 29, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if this ruling will at all dim John McCain's recent optimism about winning in Pennsylvania despite the advantage to Obama in the polls. I hope that we do not see a repeat of 2004. The people of Pennsylvania would do well to get to the polls early and check their votes before leaving the booth, as would the voters in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

Posted by: Mysticalsister | October 29, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

The rule should be, "if voters are made to wait more than 10 minutes to vote, then paper ballots should be used."

additionally, I would move to paper ballots any time more than 5 people are waiting in line.

In NY State, when we move to paper ballots, hundreds of people can vote at once, limited only by the number of #2 pencils.

There should be no more of this "2 machine" nonsense.

There is absolutely no reason that people should have to wait in line. there should be 4 poll workers and a book for every 250 voters for the day.

no electioneering, watching, or other types of interfering with voters should be allowed. these types of people should not be allowed within 1000 feet of any polling place.

There should be no purges allowed for any reason within 365 days of an election. period. All purges should be done right after each election. If people have died, they are not going to vote.

if somebody ineligible to vote tries, which in the last 30 years only 4 people in the entire nation did, then they should be properly prosecuted. but so should election workers, including the secretary of state, if they interfere with even one single vote.

no partisans should be allowed to run an election alone. there should always be groups from all parties to make any kinds of decisions and to check and balance each other.

Proper rules will have to be put into effect so we can have honest trustworthy elections once again.

Posted by: dkliman | October 29, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

This is a good thing.


Posted by: thenotoriousflavio | October 29, 2008 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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