Pennsylvania GOP Files Lawsuit Against “Poll Watcher” Residency Restrictions

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania (PA GOP) and eight voters filed a federal lawsuit [PDF] to overturn a state law restricting citizens to “poll watching” in their own county of residence.

Based on the way district lines are drawn, a resident of one county may be served by a polling place in another county. The state law requiring poll watchers to be from the same county prevents some residents from poll watching in their own districts.

The PA GOP claims this is an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. From the press release:

PA GOP Files Poll Watcher Suit To Bolster Public Confidence In The Election Process

HARRISBURG – Today eight Pennsylvania voters from different parts of the state, together with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, have filed a suit in federal court seeking an Order declaring that the Election Code provision limiting poll watchers to serve only in the counties where they reside is a violation of the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution as it restricts First Amendment rights and denies people their Equal Protection rights. The suit seeks an Order from the Court allowing poll watchers appointed under the Election Code to serve in any election district in the Commonwealth…

Since 1937 the Pennsylvania Election Code has specifically allowed poll watchers representing candidates and political parties to observe the Election Day process. The law authorizes the role of poll watchers as part of the Commonwealth’s public policy of ensuring the transparency of our election process and as a right under both the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions.

Our democratic process is best served by the public’s confidence in the conduct of elections and their outcome. Whether a voter’s candidate wins or loses, the most important thing is that the public accepts the outcome with the confident knowledge that the election was conducted fairly and according to law. We call upon all public officials to recognize that poll watchers serve to bolster the public’s confidence in the process, a goal we all share.

This suit is not about election fraud. This is about enforcing Constitutional rights and Pennsylvania’s law that has permitted poll watchers for over 75 years to observe the process inside the polling place. Poll watchers are citizens of good intention performing an important right granted to them by law.

As watchers can be appointed by all candidates and political parties, this is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of fundamental fairness for all. This is an Equal Protection and First Amendment right of all citizens, irrespective of their political party or the candidates they support.

To reinforce that all persons and parties recognize the important value of poll watchers in the election process, the State Government Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently unanimously approved and recommended legislation that would grant all poll watchers the right to serve anywhere in the Commonwealth. This is an issue that has and deserves bipartisan and nonpartisan support.

Our nation’s democracy has thrived for over 200 years in part because our laws ensure that elections will be conducted with total transparency so that we can all have confidence in not only the system, but the outcome. This litigation seeks to reinforce our shared goal.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania looks forward to its day in court as we stand up for transparency in the election process and the rights of poll watchers in Pennsylvania.