Lehigh lawmakers to introduce bill to de-criminalize helpful spouses
ALLENTOWN, April 28 – In response to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin’s announcement that he will have detectives monitor both in person and via video the county's ballot drop boxes to make sure voters are returning only their ballot, Reps. Mike Schlossberg, Peter Schweyer and Jeanne McNeill are taking action.
The three Lehigh County legislators plan to introduce legislation that borrows language from House Republican over-reach efforts to make voting more difficult for all Pennsylvanians. The language will specifically make it legal for spouses and blood relatives to deliver the absentee ballot or mail-in ballot of a family member on their behalf.
“My wife can pick up a prescription at the pharmacy for me,” Schlossberg said. “I can pick up hers, too. In fact, there are many errands we can run for each other. None are illegal. Except one: I cannot legally drop off her absentee or mail-in-ballot without a bureaucratic process.”
"The Lehigh County district attorney’s ill-conceived decision to use his limited resources to police the ballot box demonstrates two things," Schweyer said. "First, there are significant shortcomings in our state laws regarding voting and, second, that even long-time and well-regarded local officials are not immune to conspiracy theories. By proposing this legislation, we are hoping that some sanity will be restored not only in Lehigh County, but across Pennsylvania."
Without this change in the law, according to reports, voters seen dropping off more than one ballot may face prosecution and could be exposed to fines and penalties not to exceed $2,500 or be imprisoned for a term up to two years, or both. These penalties are spelled out in the Pennsylvania Election Code.
“Those who are disabled or ill are often limited by their situations, and dependent on a spouse or family member for assistance,” McNeill said. “We shouldn’t be making it harder for those individuals to cast their ballots, nor should we have legislation that places restrictions on their voting right.”
Language for the legislation is currently being drafted and will be introduced when finalized. It draws on the many requests made by election boards, county commissioners and voters who have all raised concerns about the need to make voting and administering elections easier.