Pennsylvania election threats

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Voter registration

This section details threats to voters from and problems with the state's voter registration system.

Verification, database and rejection

  • October 31, 2008. In response to reports about problems with ACORN-submitted voter registrations, the Republican party filed suit requesting that Pennsylvania increase the number of provisional ballots on hand at polling places, and also seeking to order ACORN to turn over the records for their 140,000 registrations in the state[1]. On October 30th, the judge ruled against the GOP.[2]

Notification and appeal

3rd party registration

NVRA implementation

Student voting rights

Felon voting rights

Quoting from an October, 2008 report[3] on "de facto disenfranchisement" (summary)(download PDF) co-published by the Brennan Center for Justice and the ACLU:

"[I]ndividuals with felony convictions in Pennsylvania cannot vote until released from prison. But in response to interviews in 2004, two counties mistakenly stated that people with felony convictions could vote by absentee ballot while incarcerated for a felony conviction. One county official advised that people incarcerated for felonies could vote by absentee ballot. Another said, “[n]obody is not allowed to vote. You can vote if you’re in jail. Drug dealers, rapists, murderers can vote because politicians are looking for votes.”"

See also "felon disenfranchisement" issue page

Voter education

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on voter education, how to vote, information on elections, etc.

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Pennsylvania's sample ballot system as "unsatisfactory," citing, "sample ballots are not mailed to registered voters nor are they available on the Secretary of State Website. By Law before each November election, a notice must be published by newspaper that may include a 'portion of the form of ballot or diagram of the face of the voting machine.'"[4]

Absentee and early voting

This section details problems with and threats to the state's absentee and early voting system.

Voter suppression and intimidation

This section details problems and threats involving fraud, intimidation and suppression efforts.

Deceptive practices laws

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Pennsylvania's deceptive practices law as "unsatisfactory," citing, "No deceptive practices laws."[4]

Voter caging, purging and other eligibility challenges

  • October 31, 2008. Delaware County rejected 250 voter-registration applications and is investigating 4,000 more. The Delaware County Voter Registration Commission, a three-member commission with two Republicans, which had not met for 15 years before now, is examining new voter registrations because of concerns over news reports about ACORN. Delaware County is rejecting the registration applications based on criteria that no other county uses.[5]

Voter intimidation and deception

  • November 4, 2008. Student voters report receiving text messages advising that voting had been extended through Wednesday.[6]
  • October 9, 2008 report[7] of flyers circulating in Pennsylvania universities and low-income areas telling voters they will be arrested at the polls if they have unpaid parking tickets.

""It doesn't take much to suggest to somebody that it's a good idea to stay away from the polls if they're already not deeply committed anyway," he said. During the 2004 election, flyers were posted around Penn's campus asserting that students might lose scholarships and drivers licenses if they voted."

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Pennsylvania's voter challenger rules as "unsatisfactory," citing, "On election day, challenges may be brought by any voter against another at the polls. 25 PS 3050. Challenged voters may cast an ordinary ballot, but only if they can find another registered voter to “vouch” for their identity in an affidavit. "[4]

Polling places and voting

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on election practices, polling places, workers, providing election equipment, etc.

Poll worker training, recruitment and distribution

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Pennsylvania's poll worker recruitment as "mixed," citing, "By law, 3 poll workers are required per precinct. A successful program allows high school students in good standing to serve as poll workers in addition to the 3 minimum."[4]
  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Pennsylvania's poll worker as "mixed," citing, "State law requires that counties “instruct election officers in their duties,” but does not specifically require that each election offi cer be trained before s/he serves. The Department of State has produced a standard training DVD for county administrators; in addition, the SoS is in the process of uploading the DVD online."[4]
  • November 4, 2008. According to one report, "hundreds of Penn State students are being forced to vote by provisional ballot," because "election workers are not checking supplemental registration books for the names of Penn State students who registered just before the deadline. ... Someone who votes by provisional ballot could be required to appear at the courthouse at a later date to vouch for his identity if he wants the vote to count."[8]

Voter ID requirements

Polling place accessibility and wait times

  • October 19, 2008. Long lines are predicted for Monroe County voters: "Local election officials warn voters could face long lines and wait times on Election Day this year." [9]

Voting machine and ballot distribution

  • A Common Cause examination of voting preparedness rated Pennsylvania's voting machine distribution as "unsatisfactory," citing, "No law regarding machine distribution."[4]

Malfunctioning voting machinery

  • For an extensive log of voting machine problems, see the VotersUnite! report on election incidents.[10]
  • November 04, 2008. "Voting machine malfunctions are widespread and at least a dozen locations, mainly focused on Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Election Protection has received reports of campaign materials being illegally distributed at polling locations in Pittsburgh. Voters across the state are reporting that they never received their absentee ballots, which is creating additional chaos at the polls."[11]

Ballot design

Provisional ballots

This section lists past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on provisional ballots. Particularly, what are the state's criteria for receiving a provisional ballot (including voting in the wrong precinct) and its procedures for verifying eligibility and then including those votes in the totals.


  • 11/20/2004. Allegheny County, PA. Registered voters denied provisional ballots. Poll workers uncooperative, and at least a dozen precincts ran out of provisional ballots entirely. As a result, many voters were unable to cast a ballot. [12]

Eligibility verification

  • 10/2/2008. Allegheny Country. 27 percent of provisional ballots cast in the 2008 Philadelphia Primary were disqualified because poll workers didn't fill out the envelopes properly.[13]

Ballots cast in wrong precinct

Vote verification and security

This section details past and potential election threats caused by the state's laws, regulations and practices on vote verification and security.

Voting machine verification and security

Vote tabulation procedures

Recount procedures

Chain of custody of ballots and e-voting equipment

Election public official issues

Premature media race calling

Vote result challenge procedures

Articles and resources

See also


  1. Pa. GOP goes to court over ACORN Philadelphia Inquirer, October 18, 2008
  2. Pa. Court Rebuffs GOP on ACORN Lawsuit Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31, 2008.
  3. Erika Wood and Rachel Bloom,De Facto Disenfranchisement, Brennan Center for Justice and American Civil Liberties Union, October 21, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Common Cause chart of election issues in Pennsylvania, part of the "Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States," a Common Cause report released September 16, 2008. The areas looked at include: voter registration, voter identification, caging and challenges, deceptive practices, provisional ballots, voting machine allocation, poll worker recruitment and training, voter education and student voting rights.
  5. "Delaware County rejects 250 voter applications," Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31, 2008.
  6. "Fake Text Tells College Students Voting Extended," WTAE TV, November 4, 2008.
  7. "False flyers aim to intimidate voters," The Daily Pennsylvanian, October 9, 2008
  8. "Penn State students reportedly encounter voting problems," The Associated Press, November 4, 2008.
  9. "Heavy turnout means more lines for Monroe voters," Pocono Record, October 19, 2008.
  10. This past problem and description are from the VotersUnite! Election Problem Log. Click through for included links to origin of report.
  11. Domenico Montanaro, MSNBC First Read Voting obstacles in VA, PA Tuesday, November 04, 2008.
  12. Template error: argument title is required. 
  13. "Getting out the voter suppression", Philadelphia Inquirer (October 2, 2008). 

External resources

Poll location

Election Protection hotlines

Voting information

Voting rights

Voting requirements

Election officials, election reform groups, and elected officials

Absentee voting

Disabled voters

Student voting rights

State ballot

  • See how organizations you trust recommend you vote on ballot measures and other statewide contests at TransparentDemocracy.


  • Help in other languages from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 中文, 日本語, 한국어, Tagalog, Tiếng Việt, Español

Voting machines

External articles