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Edward B. Foley
Free & Fair is a collection of writings by Edward B. Foley, one of the nation's preeminent experts on election law.

Free & Fair

Pennsylvania officials fear electoral flood tomorrow

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November 3, 2008

Pennsylvania is appearing today as perhaps the state least prepared to handle the expected voter turnout tomorrow. The Philadelphia Inquirer is quoting the City Attorney as saying: "It's going to be, I think, extraordinarily crowded." This is on top of the mayor, as well as the governor, urging voters—when they can—to vote in the middle of the day, rather than in the morning or evening.

According to a separate report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, an extra state judge has been assigned to handle anticipated litigation over long lines, and other polling places problems, that may arise there.

In light of this situation, one wonders whether the lawsuit that secured the use of emergency paper ballots in the event that 50% of machines become inoperable in a particular polling case will be invoked to permit the use of these paper ballots even if all the machines are operating. Pennsylvania lacks the "early voting" option that may work to ease the demand on the infrastructure elsewhere tomorrow.

Question: if a polling place has only 50% of the voting machines that it arguably should have to handle the level of anticipated turnout, is that the same for Fourteenth Amendment purposes under last week's ruling as a polling place that allocated the correct number of machines but 50% have become inoperable?