It was an American presidential election like no other. And of course, the drama extended far beyond Election Day.
From the start of the year, we knew that the ACLU of Pennsylvania had two primary responsibilities when it came to this year’s elections:
First, to make sure that every voter knew their rights and could safely and securely cast their vote. Second, to ensure that every vote cast in the commonwealth would be counted.
To meet these goals, we hired two expert advisors to help guide our work. Donnell Drinks served as our election protection coordinator, which included doing voter outreach and education, especially for those who were formerly incarcerated or who had a criminal conviction and in communities of color. Marian Schneider, former deputy secretary of state in charge of Pennsylvania’s elections, served as a consultant. You can listen to Donnell and Marian talk about the election in a two-part episode of Speaking Freely, ACLU of Pennsylvania’s podcast: Donnell appears in part one and Marian appears in part two.
With our team in place, we spent the months leading up to both the primary and general elections working in coalition with organizations, advocates, and election law experts to make voting across Pennsylvania safe and secure.
Starting in early February, the ACLU participated in nine federal and state court lawsuits to defend the rights of Pennsylvania voters to safely cast their ballots and to have their votes counted. In these various lawsuits, we represented the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, Black Political Empowerment Project, Make the Road Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, and several individual voters.
Beginning in the summer, we convened a quartet of public-interest organizations to fight what we expected to be a fusillade of lawsuits. We were not wrong. Joining with ACLU-PA were the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, the Public Interest Law Center, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Two national law firms, Wilmer Hale and Covington Burling, supplied teams of excellent lawyers to support what turned out to be a steady stream of emergency brief writing and trial court litigation, and enabled us to participate in the most important voting rights cases in Pennsylvania.
On November 3, we worked with our coalition to monitor and respond to incidents of voter intimidation, significant issues at polling places, or other signs of potential voter suppression like unnecessarily long lines to vote. It was, in fact, a surprisingly quiet day with no major issues reported statewide.
Of course, we all know the aftermath of Election Day by this point and we won’t belabor the point. Here in Pennsylvania, Trump sued and lost. Then Trump sued and lost again. And then, once more, he lost.
Now, as we face four years of a different administration, we must remain diligent and vigilant in protecting our democracy from those that will surely do all they can to continue to undermine and disenfranchise voters.
We will not stand for it. Not in 2020. Not ever.