UPDATE: A judge on Thursday denied the request for an injunction against the mobile voting site at Subaru Park, saying the plaintiffs failed “to establish a clear right to relief” from violations of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.
The Delaware County Board of Elections illegally approved the use of a temporary “pop-up” voting location, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
In an Oct. 7 meeting, the elections board voted 2-1 to create a “mobile voter services center” for three days at Subaru Park in Chester, but public comment on the decision was never taken.
Because the item was not on the agenda and because public comment was not taken, the board violated Pennsylvania’s sunshine laws, the complaint alleges.
“Agencies must provide a reasonable opportunity for residents and/or taxpayers to comment on an issue before a decision takes place,” according to the state Office of Open Records.
About halfway through the two-hour meeting, the Delaware County’s interim director of elections, Marianne Jackson, described her conversations with the property managers at Subaru Park in Chester, and the park’s willingness to allow the site to be used as a temporary voting location.
“I would actually like to ask for the board’s approval on that — to conduct the three-day mobile voting service center at Subaru Park on October 16th, 17th, and 18th,” Jackson said.
As discussion on that request followed, James Byrne, the lone Republican on the board, expressed his outrage that the proposal was being voted on.
“It’s not on the agenda. It’s not on ‘old business.’ It’s not under ‘new business.’ It’s under the ‘Director of Elections report.’ If somebody went to the website or to the agenda — which by the way wasn’t posted until late last night if it was ever even posted — and wanted to participate and wanted to comment on this, they couldn’t. Or they would have no reason to because it’s not on the agenda.”
Byrne made a motion to table the vote, but his motion was never seconded.
Delaware County is now refusing to comment on the situation, citing “pending litigation.”
Satellite election locations have already created controversy. The Trump campaign sued the city of Philadelphia after campaign-sanctioned poll watchers were turned away from the city’s satellite offices. Trump’s lawyers argued that these sites should be monitored the same way traditional polling places are. A federal judge rejected their request and the campaign is appealing.
The Delaware County lawsuit seeks an injunction against the county’s use of the site as a mobile voting location.
The board is “specifically targeting just one portion of Delaware County without consideration to the voting needs of the Delaware County electorate as a whole,” the complaint says.
The election board’s makeup is usually determined by which party owns the majority on Delaware county council. Tradition has held that of the three seats, two would be appointed from the same party of the county council’s majority and the remaining seat would go to the minority.
Byrne has been a near-constant critic of how election business has been handled this year, telling Delaware Valley Journal he has had concerns for months that the state sunshine law was being violated in other ways.
He pointed to various times the county held meetings of the “elections projects team.”
“Once a week or once every two weeks, they had these meetings and they call it the ‘election projects team,’ which is members of County Council — more than a quorum of County Council and more than a quorum of the voter registration board.” Bynre told Delaware Valley Journal.
“But they’re not open to the public. They should be. That was when I really started getting, you know, my antenna started going up. These are not meetings we should be having. There shouldn’t be meetings that are not advertised to the public.”
Byrne often stopped attending meetings because he believed they were illegal.
The lawsuit also alleges the “elections project team” meetings are in violation of the sunshine laws.
Delaware Valley Journal also presented Byrne’s accusations to the Delaware County Council, but no comment was provided, again for the reason that litigation was now pending.
Plaintiffs to the suit are: Mark Carroll; Jodi Diamond; Matthew Dadich; Stephanie Leone; Gloria Brazell; Karen Elliot; Wendy Willauer; and Leah Hoopes.