Nonpartisan Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition Provides Update on Trends at Polling Places Statewide

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Nov. 3, 2020) — The nonpartisan Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition is providing its first in a series of Election Day updates regarding voting system irregularities, technology problems, security matters, misinformation and any other issues related to voter access at polling precincts across the commonwealth.

Additional updates will be provided.

The coalition is staffing a toll-free hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, with volunteer lawyers who are trained on election law. The coalition also has about 2,000 volunteer poll monitors as well as a Vote Guardian program specifically to help anyone who witnessed attempts to intimidate voters at the polls. More than 850 volunteers are looking for and responding to social media posts from Pennsylvania voters with questions or problems.

“Our work remains focused on making sure every voter feels safe and secure exercising their right to vote, and that every vote that is cast today is counted,” said Suzanne Almeida of Common Cause PA, which is heading up the coalition effort in Pennsylvania.

During the morning hours, most of the issues that surfaced were common to most any other election, like polling places opening late, with nearly all of them now open and operational. There also have been reports of extremely long lines — an expected outcome given the state’s high voter registration and interest in this election — although most of the long lines are in communities of color.

More than 3 million Pennsylvanians applied to vote by mail. However, voters are spoiling their mail-in ballots at high rates, and some poll workers are confused about the process. Spoiling ballots means that voters who requested mail-in ballots are now showing up in person with those ballots and voiding them to vote in person instead.

“Election officials have worked tirelessly for months to get ready for this election, and, so far, we’ve seen mostly the typical minor problems that we see on every Election Day,” said Sara Mullen, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The coalition has a Vote Guardian program on the ground where volunteers wearing identifiable colors regionally are on the lookout for any threats of real or perceived intimidation to deescalate the situation and serve as a frontline defense for voters. There have been no reports of intimidation.

“Black communities have led millions across the nation in marching for justice. Now all of us, young and old, from cities to suburbs, are rejecting every attempt to divide us this Election Day,” said Salewa Ogunmefun, Civic Engagement & Political Manager, Center for Popular Democracy. “We are in this together and we will keep each other safe at the polls.”

In terms of election security, DOS Secretary Kathy Boockvar made clear that no county should ever provide election security information to any campaign after media reports that at least three counties have been asked about their plans.

Voters who have questions or need assistance are encouraged to call or text the Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition toll-free hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE. The voter assistance telephone hotlines are available, although voters may need to leave a message and wait for a callback because of call volume.

If anyone witnesses attempts to intimidate voters at the polls, stay calm. Do not engage. Document what you see, look for a Vote Guardian volunteer, and call or text the hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE to report the incident.

About the Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition:

The coalition is led by Common Cause Pennsylvania and includes ACLU-Pennsylvania, Keystone Votes, University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, All Voting is Local, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Fair Elections Center, CASA, Make the Road Pennsylvania, One Pennsylvania, Committee of 70, SEAMAAC, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), Pennsylvania Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and the National Urban League.