Today, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and ACTION United filed suit against Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, Secretary of Public Welfare, Gary D. Alexander and Secretary of Health, Dr. Eli N. Avila in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs, represented by a coalition of national voting rights groups including Demos, Project Vote and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, allege that the Commonwealth has systematically failed to comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Since its 1993 enactment, the NVRA has helped ensure that low-income residents receive an opportunity to register to vote by mandating that all public assistance agencies offer voter registration services.
>>>READ THE COMPLAINT
The plaintiffs allege that the majority of clients seeking public assistance services in Pennsylvania are simply not being offered voter registration opportunities, and some public assistance agencies do not even have the voter registration forms available on request. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that, based on Pennsylvania’s own submissions to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the number of voter registration applications submitted at Pennsylvania public assistance offices decreased by a staggering 93% in recent years, from 59,462 in 1995-1996 to just 4,179 in 2009-2010. This steep decline in voter registrations is particularly significant because it occurred during the same period that both the population of the Commonwealth and the number of applicants for public assistance were increasing.
As a result of the Commonwealth’s failures, the Plaintiffs are forced to expend resources helping to register citizens who would otherwise be registered by the Commonwealth.
"The freedom to vote is the foundation of American democracy. It is the means by which Americans, regardless of class or race, control their lives and their futures. The NVRA tasks all states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with promoting and protecting this fundamental freedom," said Dave Rubino, counsel at Demos. "Right now, the Commonwealth is falling short on that task."
In the past several years, lawsuits filed by the same voting rights groups have forced other states that had been disregarding the NVRA to comply, with dramatic results. For example, applications from Missouri public assistance agencies skyrocketed, from fewer than 8,000 a year to more than 130,000 a year, following settlement of a suit in that state in 2009. More than 360,000 low-income Ohioans have applied to register since a similar case was settled there at the end of 2009. Cases were also recently settled in New Mexico, Indiana and Georgia.
“Public assistance clients greatly benefit from accessible voter registration. Congress decided that these citizens shouldn’t have to jump through additional hoops to register,” said Bob Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project. “Our interviews with public assistance clients showed that few had received voter registration applications when they should have, and some offices didn’t even have voter registration applications on site when we asked for them."
“Public assistance offices are in a unique position to increase voter registration rates among low-income citizens, the disabled and racial minorities,” said Sarah Brannon, director of the Public Agency Voter Registration Program for Project Vote. “Pennsylvania should realize this potential and correct the inadequacies within its system.”
The national coalition had been attempting to work with the Commonwealth collaboratively on NVRA compliance for a number of years. Only when it became clear that the Commonwealth would not voluntarily come into compliance prior to the voter registration deadline for this year's elections did the group opt to take legal action. Among other things, the Complaint seeks an order directing defendants, under a court-approved plan, to take all actions necessary to remedy the past and continuing violations of Section 7 of the NVRA.
“The people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and indeed the nation, who might benefit the most from having an ongoing, consistent and accessible opportunity to register to vote are low income residents. The opportunity for political empowerment and the opportunity to vote in each and every election cannot be underestimated,” said Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of B-PEP, “It is imperative that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania meet its NVRA obligation.”
“Voting is the cornerstone of civic engagement and a critical part of being a citizen” said Lucille Prater-Holliday, president of ACTION United. “Public assistance offices should be not just facilitating but encouraging low-income citizens to participate. These offices particularly are the front line of engagement for many citizens who are disengaged and all but disenfranchised. Their absolute failure to do their duty required by the NVRA to only perpetuates this disenfranchisement and disengagement.”
Most people already know or sense that Pennsylvania has dropped from 8th to 47th in job creation under Corbett. That’s an important issue that Corbett lies about in this campaign mailer.
The real message in this mailer is subliminal. “The effectiveness of subliminal messaging has been demonstrated to prime individual responses and stimulate mild emotional activity.” – Wikipedia
The images of Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf are several shades darker than the images of President Obama in this Republican mailer. The reality is that Wolf’s skin color is much lighter than Obama’s.
Randy Shannon | Beaver County Blue 05 Oct 2014 Hits:464 Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania officials have refused to disclose information that freight railroads provide about shipments of volatile crude oil through the state.
In the wake of several fiery accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation in May issued an emergency order requiring railroads to report to state emergency management officials the number of trains carrying oil from the Bakken Shale formation in the Midwest and the routes of the shipments.
The order required the railroads to provide an estimate of the number of trains passing through each county per week that carry 1 million gallons...
Jon Schmitz | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03 Aug 2014 Hits:560 Pennsylvania
A federal district court judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, handing gay rights advocates their second legal victory in as many days.
In the wake of last June’s Supreme Court decision striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III said the commonwealth’s version of the law was unconstitutional. The suit was brought on behalf of 23 plaintiffs by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“[W]e hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the...
Niraj Chokshi and Reid Wilson | Washington Post 20 May 2014 Hits:508 Pennsylvania
Bucks County activists hung a cease and desist order outside Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick's Langhorne office.
In the hours leading up to a rally outside Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick's Langhorne office, it appeared that a deal was close to tend the 15-day shutdown of the federal government. It would have been good news for the protesters that want to see the thousands of federal employees back to work and earning paychecks, even if it stole their thunder a bit.
"We would have held the protest anyway," said Robin Stelly of Keystone Progress, one of the...
James Boyle| Levittown Patch 16 Oct 2013 Hits:554 Pennsylvania
A liberal group based in Harrisburg will fan out across the state and into the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday to try to put pressure on Republicans in Congress toward ending the federal government shutdown.
Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, said hundreds of people will place "cease and desist" posters outside the district offices of House Republicans, placing the blame on them.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has called the protest a partisan stunt that ignores efforts by Pennsylvania's GOP House members to end the impasse. While Keystone Progress prepared for the...
Ben Finley | Philadelphia Inquirer 16 Oct 2013 Hits:505 Pennsylvania
Sometimes it's the thought that counts.
A "cease and desist" order Roger Lund delivered to the Gettysburg office of Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, doesn't carry any legal weight, but Lund said the message behind the order is the whole point.
Lund and a group of about 80 Adams County residents delivered the letter around 11:30 Tuesday morning, about two days before the nation was set to default on its debts.
There's a national crisis that, according to Lund and his group, was caused by a small group of extremists in the House...
Christina Kaufman | York Dispatch 16 Oct 2013 Hits:587 Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania voters will not have to show photo identification at the polls until the Commonwealth Court makes a final decision in the lawsuit challenging the controversial law. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley issued an order on August 16th extending the preliminary injunction of the voter ID law until the trial court makes a decision on a permanent injunction. That decision, which is separate from today’s ruling, is not expected until later this year. “We are very pleased that hundreds of thousands of eligible voters will be able to cast...
Sara Mullen | PA ACLU 16 Aug 2013 Hits:635 Pennsylvania
“In the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.”
A Pennsylvania judge in the heart of the Keystone State’s fracking belt has issued a forceful and precedent-setting decision holding that there is no corporate right to privacy under that state’s constitution, giving citizens and journalists a powerful tool to understand the health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling in their communities.
“Whether a right of privacy for businesses exists within the prenumbral rights of Pennsylvania’s constitution is a matter of first impression,” wrote Washington County Court of Common Pleas Judge...
Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 12 Apr 2013 Hits:653 Pennsylvania
They just won't quit, will they? The New Castle News (where I get most of my information these days*) is reporting that Harrisburg legislative powerhouse Sen. Dominic Pileggi has yet another scheme in which Pennsylvania would award a number of electoral votes to the losing candidate under a system not used in any of the other 49 states.
As you may know, the losing candidate in every presidential election in Pennsylvania since 1988 has been a Republican. In 2012, President Obama got just under 52 percent of the popular vote and...
Will Bunch | Philly.com 05 Feb 2013 Hits:795 Pennsylvania
Last month, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus called up “states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red” to rig future presidential elections by changing the way electoral votes are allocated. Under Priebus’ proposal, blue states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would stop awarding electoral votes to the winner of the state as a whole, and instead would award them one-by-one to the winner of each congressional district. Meanwhile, red states would continue to award 100 percent of their...
Ian Milhiser | Think Progress - Justice 04 Feb 2013 Hits:978 Pennsylvania
Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the deed of trust establishing the Milton Hershey School as an orphanage in 1909, funding it with revenue from the famous candy company. Since then, the school has officially been dedicated to “the purpose of nurturing and educating children in need.” Because its founder gave MHS Trust a controlling interest in the Hershey Company, today it boasts a massive $8.5 billion in assets and also owns Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (operating hotels and an amusement park). In keeping...
F Frederic Fouad | The Nation 20 Oct 2012 Hits:1475 Pennsylvania
One September night in the western Pennsylvania borough of Monaca, a disillusioned resident told a labor canvasser that he’d once “backed all of the Democrats all the way through,” only to realize “both sides” were “really full of shit.” Then he said something I heard often during my week in the region: “If all these factories were still running here, we’d all still have jobs.”
In the mostly white, once unionized, postindustrial towns around Pittsburgh, outsourcing casts a long shadow over undecided or uninspired ...
Josh Eidelson | The Nation 11 Oct 2012 Hits:742 Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG -- A judge has blocked the state from discounting ballots cast next month by voters who lack the photo identification required under the new voter ID law.
Voters will be asked for their identification at the polls, but will vote by normal procedures and their vote will count regardless of whether they have an ID, according to officials on both sides of the case.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson wrote in an order released this morning that the injunction would have the effect of...
Karen Langley | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02 Oct 2012 Hits:699 Pennsylvania
A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday postponed the enforcement of the state's new strict voter ID requirement until after the November presidential election.
In a much-anticipated ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ordered that voters without government-issued photo ID should be allowed to cast regular ballots.
"That's a huge win," said Witold J. Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, "because last week the judge was suggesting that he was going to have every [voter without ID] vote provisionally."
At the same time, the...
Dan Froomkin | Huffington Post 02 Oct 2012 Hits:807 Pennsylvania
Commonwealth promises that this time they really, really mean it when they say every voter will be able to get ID.
Today’s hearing was déjà vu all over again, as the saying goes. Once again the Commonwealth produced a last-minute new ID procedure right before trial – this time literally the night before. And once again the Commonwealth asked the court to rely solely on its assurances that the new IDs would ensure that all eligible voters will get to vote in November.
The biggest news of the trial (also announced in...
Sara Mullen, Associate Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania 26 Sep 2012 Hits:873 Pennsylvania
Earlier this week, every single sitting Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice rejected a lower court decision allowing that state’s voter ID law to take effect. Four justices joined a majority opinion requiring the lower court judge to look at the case again due to concerns that voters were unable to obtain the IDs they were supposed to have easy access to as a matter of law, and two more justices joined a dissent arguing that the law should simply be suspended right away. Three of the justices in...
Ian Millhiser | Think Progress Justice 22 Sep 2012 Hits:1173 Pennsylvania
State Supreme Court sends decision back to lower court
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday has ordered the lower court to revisit its decision in the controversial voter ID law, which voting rights advocates have said would have disenfranchised as many as 750,000.
The ruling stated:
The court is to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in...
Common Dreams Staff | Common Dreams 19 Sep 2012 Hits:1014 Pennsylvania
This past winter I moved to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C., where I had lived for about 3.5 years. I never bothered to register to vote down there, since the District doesn’t have voting representation at the federal level. (Yes, reader: The denizens of our nation’s capital live in a world of taxation without representation. They even slapped the phrase on their license plates in protest.) So for the interim I sent absentee ballots back home, even though they couldn’t have meant much in true-blue New...
Matt Bevilacqua | Next American City 12 Sep 2012 Hits:4074 Pennsylvania
Two government offices, three hour-long lines, two 78-mile trips, two week-long waiting periods, four forms of identity and two signed affidavits later, Pennsylvanians will be allowed to vote.
Under the state's new voter ID laws,, which require every voter to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls, that is the epic process thousands of native Pennsylvanians have to go through to get the ID required to cast their ballots in November. And they now have just 56 days to complete it before the...
Amy Bingham | ABC News 12 Sep 2012 Hits:1403 Pennsylvania
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania today announced that its entire Sept. 13 oral argument session, which includes hearings on the state’s second legislative redistricting plan and the voter ID law, will be televised live on PCN. The hearings are being held in the court’s Philadelphia City Hall courtroom.
Oral arguments will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Supreme Court’s Philadelphia courtroom, room 456 of City Hall. Strict decorum will be observed. Because of limited seating, observers will be admitted on a first come, first...
Diana Robinson | PCNTV 27 Aug 2012 Hits:947 Pennsylvania
Posted every few miles on the river's banks were groups of protestors, challenging the governor's pro-drilling policy with signs and chants.
At just after 8 am on Thursday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got into a blue kayak in Beach Lake, Pa to begin a 15 mile trip south on the scenic Delaware, the nation's most pristine and ancient river. Some 30 kayakers, friends and associates, including Richard Allan, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources, on the misty morning, part of a two-day promotion...
Nora Eisenberg | AlterNet 24 Aug 2012 Hits:1225 Pennsylvania
On Wednesday, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and ACTION United entered a Court approved Settlement Agreement with the Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, Secretary of…
On Wednesday, in a closely watched case, a state judge in Pennsylvania declined to block the state’s controversial voter ID law from taking effect. If the ruling is upheld on…
A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday declined to block a new state law requiring specific kinds of photo identification to vote. Liberal groups, arguing that minorities and the poor…
We’re taking up a collection at my office, here at the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, PA, for some of our radio producers and campaigners.
For six years, we’ve believed that…
As states fight to implement voter ID laws in time for the November election, it is becoming glaringly obvious that the current election system cannot handle the added burden…
“Did he [President Obama] not get the message in Wisconsin [the June 5 recall vote]? [He wants] more firemen, more policemen, [and] more teachers. The American people did.…
Today, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and ACTION United filed suit against Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, Secretary of Public Welfare, Gary D. Alexander and Secretary…
The impact of Pennsylvania’s new Voter-ID law could be much wider-reaching than the state’s Republican officials claimed when passing the bill, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
In fact, over 758,000 registered voters in…
Philadelphia City Council, by a vote of 15-2, passed today a resolution "calling on the U.S. Congress to bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, to take the funds saved…
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