A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] on Thursday denied [opinion, PDF] the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s effort to allow out-of-county poll watchers to monitor precincts on election day. Judge Gerald Pappert stated [AP report] that the request was not in the public interest and did not meet the standard for a last-minute intervention from the court. The judge was concerned [Morning Call report] that to allow the intervention would cause “disruption, confusion or other unforeseen deleterious effects.” Pennsylvania law currently allows poll watchers to monitor locations only within the county in which they are registered to vote. The Republican party sought to change this law to allow anyone within the state to monitor precincts. Pappert also rejected the challenge’s free speech component stating that poll watching cannot be characterized as political speech.
The right to vote has become a contentious issue as the presidential election approaches. This week the Supreme Court rejected [JURIST report] a vote counting appeal to block state election rules that they claimed could deiqualify certain absentee ballots. In October a New York law prohibiting a person from showing the contents of her prepared voting ballot was challenged as unconstitutional [JURIST report] by state voters for violating their First Amendment rights. The complaint alleges that the law infringes on voters’ freedom of speech and freedom of expression under the US Constitution as well as the New York state Constitution. Also in October a federal court denied an emergency motion [JURIST report] from North Carolina counties to extend the hours of early voting. In September a district court judge granted [JURIST report] a motion blocking Illinois from allowing voter registration on election day in the state’s most populated counties.