The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas in York, PA over the York County Board of Elections’ refusal to allow nonpartisan observers to witness the official canvass of the vote during the 2023 election cycle. The lawsuit alleges that York County’s refusal to admit public observers during its canvass procedure is a violation of the Pennsylvania Election Code, which mandates public access to the canvassing of election results.

In November of 2023, a longtime York resident arrived at the county’s official canvass of election returns to observe the proceedings. An official from the county’s election office refused to allow the resident to enter the room where the official canvass meeting was taking place, incorrectly stating that the resident needed a “watcher’s certificate.” Watcher certificates are provided under Pennsylvania election law so that political parties and representatives can observe vote count canvasses. Residents unaffiliated with a party or a candidate do not need a watcher’s certificate to observe the computation of results from each district that occurs during an official canvass.

ACLU-PA attorneys sent a letter to York County election officials raising concerns about their refusal to allow the volunteer to witness the canvass. The county responded that its actions were within the bounds of the law and that in refusing entry to the election canvass, it was hoping to prevent a "free for all" that "could be catastrophic."

The lawsuit asks the court to mandate that York County follow the law by conducting a public canvass of election returns during the 2024 primary and general elections and to allow the plaintiff and other members of the public to observe the canvass.


Marian Schneider, Stephen Loney, and Kate Steiker-Ginzberg of the ACLU of Pennsylvania

Date filed

February 28, 2024


York County Court of Common Pleas