On the morning of Election Day last November, William French went to his local polling place in Freeland, Pennsylvania, to cast his vote. But the qualified and registered voter wasn’t allowed to. The disabled U.S. Army veteran was told that the precinct had run out of paper for ballots and he had to come back later in the afternoon.
So that’s what he did, returning at 3:30 p.m. But the precinct still didn’t have ballots. Election workers told him to return yet again. But by nightfall, it was too difficult. French has endured 17 surgeries on his destroyed leg and uses a cane to walk. But the sidewalks are a mess, and he was worried about the risk of falling and further injury.
That same morning, Melynda Reese and her husband went to their polling location in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. But only Reese’s husband was allowed to vote, and for the same reason: The precinct had run out of paper. They came back at 4:00 p.m. and were told there would be a lengthy wait.
Reese is a corrections officer and her husband’s primary caregiver. He had recently suffered two cardiac arrests and a stroke. He required regular medication and attention and couldn’t be left alone. Long waits were also too much to bear. The couple returned at 6:30 p.m., and saw a line that stretched so long that they knew they couldn’t wait. Around 9:15 p.m., an election official called Reese and told her that ballots were finally available and she could vote. But her husband had just taken his sleeping pills and she couldn’t leave him unattended.
French and Reese are just two of the thousands of voters affected by poor election administration in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The two just sued Luzerne County, its Board of Elections and Registration, and its Bureau of Elections in federal court for violations of their constitutional right to vote.
“Voters in Luzerne County through no fault of their own, were disenfranchised and denied the fundamental right to vote. William French and Melynda Reese are two of those voters. They bring suit to vindicate the denial of their sacred right to vote, to make sure voters are not disenfranchised in the future, and to bring integrity back to elections in Luzerne County,” said Wally Zimolong, lawyer for French and Reese.
Luzerne County was coal country and once a Democrat stronghold, before Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, when the county voted Republican. The county’s election administration in 2022 was, according to the lawsuit, a “catastrophic failure.” More than 40 precincts had an insufficient number of ballots, many running out early in the morning on Election Day. The county implausibly blamed high voter interest, but Pennsylvania law requires counties to have enough ballots for every registered voter. Election workers were sent scrambling to office supply stores for paper, and were left untrained for the disastrous day. A court had to intervene to allow a few more hours of voting. Judge Lesa Gelb wrote in her order, “Voters in Luzerne County through no fault of their own, were disenfranchised and denied the fundamental right to vote.” Left-wing groups pressured the county election board to certify the election results, even though the first vote to certify failed to pass. The county election board bowed to the pressure.
Even with the problems faced by thousands of voters, including not being able to vote, no election contest was challenged because of the poor administration. But the story could have been much worse. Pennsylvania frequently has close elections. Just months prior, in fact, the Republican primary for Senate nominee came down to just over 900 votes statewide.
Yesterday, the House Administration Committee held a hearing to investigate just how things went off the rails in Luzerne County.
At the hearing, House Administration Chair and Republican Rep. Bryan Steil noted that Democrats and media operatives talk a big game about disenfranchisement every time Republicans pass legislation to increase election security, but they have never been able to produce evidence of voters unable to vote. “For years, several of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have claimed that states like Florida and Georgia — that have implemented voter integrity laws — are suppressing voters. … However, they have never produced a single voter who wanted to vote and was unable to,” said Steil.
One of the more prominent examples of Democrats’ “voter suppression” smear came two years ago, when Georgia passed legislation enhancing the integrity of the state’s elections. Despite the benign provisions included in the bill — such as voter ID requirements for mail-in voting —Democrats and their legacy media allies blatantly mischaracterized the law as a Republican-led effort to suppress Georgia voters. President Joe Biden took his hyperbolic response a step further, referring to the bill as “Jim Crow on steroids” and pressuring the MLB to relocate its 2021 All-Star game out of Atlanta in protest. The league ultimately caved and moved the event to Denver, Colorado. Other Georgia-based corporations to smear the law as a form of voter suppression include Coca-Cola and Delta.
French and Reese’s lawsuit against Luzerne County, its Board of Elections and Registration, and its Bureau of Elections comes at a time when some election officials in the country have seemed to privilege early and unsupervised voters at the expense of Election Day voters. In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, at least 70 of the county’s 223 election locations experienced significant problems with ballot printing and processing on Election Day.
But according to America’s left-wing legacy media, voter disenfranchisement doesn’t matter if the Democrat candidate is declared the winner. In the case of Maricopa, legacy media have not only run interference for the incompetence of the county’s election officials. They’ve also accused Arizonans concerned about the conduction of the contest of promoting “conspiracy theories.” Media outrage over the setbacks in Luzerne County has also been practically nonexistent.
These kinds of Election Day failures aren’t just problematic because no voter should be disenfranchised. They’re problematic because of a stark partisan divide in how Americans vote. Democrats have made unsupervised, mail-in balloting a key electoral strategy. Republicans, by comparison, prefer in-person voting on Election Day.
If this trend grows, it means that Republican voters are more likely to bear the brunt of any maladministration on Election Day than Democrats. Such circumstances would further degrade Americans’ waning confidence in the electoral process. It’s why it’s so important that voters disenfranchised in places such as Luzerne County receive the accountability they deserve.
“Luzerne County has a history of election administration problems that needs to be addressed. These two plaintiffs represent those whose efforts to vote are thwarted by election officials’ incompetence, negligence, partisan rancor, or failure to follow the law,” said Lisa Dixon, executive director of Lawyers Democracy Fund, a conservative voter rights group. “Further, the citizens of Luzerne County deserve to know how the catastrophic ballot shortage occurred last fall, and the county has provided no explanation. This lawsuit will help shine light on what happened and ensure election officials do not disenfranchise eligible voters.”