LANCASTER, PA. - A Lancaster County judge ruled today that the county commissioners violated the state’s Sunshine Act when they failed to post public notice that they would be considering the removal of the county’s one mail and absentee ballot dropbox at the April meeting of the Board of Elections. Because the board was taking an official action, the commissioners were required by law to post the agenda for the meeting on their website at least 24 hours in advance.
Two county residents challenged the commissioners’ actions, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and volunteer attorneys from the law firm Gibbel Kraybill & Hess LLP. The following can be attributed to Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“This is a government transparency case. The commissioners failed in their legal obligations to inform the public of what they were considering at their meeting. It’s also a voting rights case. The commissioners knew that removing the dropbox would be controversial because they had heard from residents who opposed its removal. Instead of facing the public feedback that would come, they chose to hide their plan.”
The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“Thousands of Lancaster County voters have taken advantage of the ballot dropbox over three elections. Removing it makes little sense because it gives Lancaster County voters one more option to deliver their ballots and for elections workers to process them. The ACLU of Pennsylvania stands on the side of the voters, no matter where they’re from or who they vote for.”
The following can be attributed to Dwight Yoder of the law firm Gibbel Kraybill & Hess LLP, who argued the case in court:
“Democracy can’t function effectively if the people aren’t properly informed of what their government is doing. That was the failure here. When the commissioners set up the dropbox in 2020, they took an official action to establish it. Thus, to remove it, they also had to take an official action. They didn’t, and so they were in violation of the law. We are grateful for Judge Brown’s well written and thoughtful decision.”
The plaintiffs, Brian Frey of Ephrata and Jon Foley Sherman of Manheim Township, are represented by ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold Walczak and Senior Voting Rights Policy Counsel Marian Schneider and cooperating attorneys J. Dwight Yoder and Sheila O’Rourke of the Lancaster-based law firm Gibbel Kraybill & Hess LLP.
More information about the case, including a copy of today’s order, is available at aclupa.org/LancasterSunshine.