Chester County, PA -- Voters at Lincoln University, a historically black college, stood in the rain for six hours and longer to cast their ballots on Tuesday, until intervention from Election Protection forced the Chester County Voter Services office to add poll workers and expand processing facilities.
Upon learning of the long lines at about 5:30 PM, the Election Protection team contacted Chester County Voter Services repeatedly to offer support to speed the lines. Marian Schneider, an attorney with Advancement Project's Pennsylvania Voter Protection Program, recruited volunteer poll workers and sent them to the site while Sarah McKenzie of the AFL-CIO Voter Protection Project located a tent that could be set up outside the tiny polling station to help process voters. ACLU of Pennsylvania attorney Mary Catherine Roper coordinated the response from the Election Protection command center. Meanwhile, volunteer attorney Thomas P. Reilly became the team's eyes and ears on the ground, standing with the voters in the rain for hours.
But Chester County Voter Services, which had known about the lines for hours, refused all assistance. Without any other alternative, volunteer attorney Joseph Green took the issue to court. Chester County officials claimed that the situation was not an emergency and required no special efforts because everyone in line would eventually be able to vote. Election Protection argued that asking people to wait until after midnight was an unnecessary and excessive barrier to exercising their right to cast a ballot.
At about 9:30 PM, with hundreds of people still in line to vote, the Honorable David F. Bortner of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas ordered Chester County Voter Services to add an outside voter check-in table and additional poll workers and voting stations to speed the line. It was later reported that the final vote was cast at about 10:50 PM.
Voters and local election officials had foreseen these difficulties and unsuccessfully tried to convince the Chester County Board of Elections to move the polling place to the Lincoln University gymnasium. On September 16, 2008, by a 2-1 vote, the Board denied the petition. Unfortunately for the students and voters of Lower Oxford East, all predictions about long lines, insufficient privacy booths and lack of poll workers materialized, and caused the excessively long lines on Election Day.
Election Protection is the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline (1-866-687-8683) and dedicated team of legal experts and trained volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting, offering live assistance. The coalition has more than 100 partners at the national, state and local level, and is providing live voter protection services now through Election Day for all 50 states.
For more information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline, please visit: www.866ourvote.org