YORK, Pa. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against York County over the county’s Board of Elections’ refusal to allow nonpartisan observers to witness the canvass of the vote during the 2023 election cycle.  

In November of 2023, a longtime York resident arrived at the county’s official canvass of the ballots that had been mailed in or had been cast on Election Day. The deputy director of the county’s election office refused to allow the resident to enter the canvass area, incorrectly stating that the resident needed a “watcher’s certificate.” Watcher certificates are provided under Pennsylvania election law so that political parties and candidates can observe vote canvasses. Residents unaffiliated with a party or a candidate do not need a watcher’s certificate to observe the computing of votes during an official canvass. 

“Transparency is vital to the health of our democracy and transparency through residents’ canvass have made recent elections have been some of the safest and most secure in United States history,” said Mike Lee, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Ensuring the public has access to county vote canvasses is one of the best ways to ensure integrity in our elections and to counter misinformation head on.” 

The lawsuit alleges that York County’s refusal to admit public observers during its vote canvass is a violation of the Pennsylvania Election Code, which mandates a public count of election results. 

“Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are on notice that they must follow the letter of the law when it comes to managing elections or they can expect legal action,” said Marian Schneider, senior voting rights counsel at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We recognize that running an election is a big job for county election officials across the commonwealth. That’s why it’s so crucial that election officials adhere to election rules to keep our democracy running as smoothly as possible.”

You can find the full lawsuit at aclupa.org/YorkCountyCanvass.