Pennsylvania Mail-in Ballot Canvassing Challenge
Barnette v. Lawrence
Lawsuit filed by Kathy Barnette (R), the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District, and a voter against the Montgomery County Board of Elections alleging that the board began illegally pre-canvassing (meaning tallying) mail-in ballots and contacted voters to give them the opportunity to fix minor defects (such as a missing signature) on their ballots. The plaintiffs argue that, under Pennsylvania law, “counties [are prohibited] from pre-canvasing any ballots, including absentee and mail-in ballots, before 7:00 a.m. on Election Day.” The plaintiffs also claim that “the Montgomery County Board of Elections is restricting the ability of candidates and their representatives…and other legally constituted watchers…to observe the entire canvass process for the mail-in and absentee ballots.” The plaintiffs assert that the defendant is violating the Equal Protection Clause of 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because “equivalent votes in different counties and amongst similarly situated Montgomery County electors are being treated differently.” The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the defendants’ conduct unconstitutional and to void “any mail-in or absentee ballots that have been changed by an elector or otherwise not conforming with the Election Code.”
On Nov. 6, 2020, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order against the defendants. On Nov. 11, 2020, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.