Warning from Lehigh County DA: Don’t drop off anyone’s ballot but your own

Written by on April 26, 2022

Warning from Lehigh County DA: Don’t drop off anyone’s ballot but your own

By Tyler Pratt
April 26, 2022

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin is putting voters on notice: Violations of Pennsylvania’s election code will not be tolerated.

Martin’s pronouncement Tuesday came after his release of a report earlier this month that found nearly 300 people last fall deposited more than one mail-in ballot at official ballot drop boxes around Lehigh County.

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Under state law, a person may deposit only one ballot envelope — their own — when returning a mail-in ballot at either a mailbox or a drop box, Martin said.

He said voters should be aware that it is a violation even if the voter only deposits his or her spouse’s, or another family member’s, ballot in addition to their own.

In a letter Tuesday to the Lehigh County Election Board, Martin suggested warnings be placed on drop boxes in a prominent location. He said the warnings should make clear that voters should return only their ballot, and the warnings should also spell out possible penalties if someone returns more than one ballot envelope.

Martin said county detectives will review video surveillance footage as well as physically monitor drop box locations leading up to the May 17 primary election.

People who drop off more than one ballot face prosecution and could be exposed to fines and penalties up to $2,500, or be imprisoned up to two years, or both, as outlined in the election code, Martin said.

On April 4, a report by Martin said at least 288 people deposited more than one ballot at five county drop boxes between last Oct. 18 and Election Day, which was Nov. 2.

Martin said very few people could be identified due to the mask mandate at the time and the quality of video surveillance at the four drop box locations inside municipal buildings as well as at the Lehigh County Government Center at 17 S. Seventh St. in Allentown. The government center drop box was accessible around the clock. Martin suggests those hours be cut back to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In his earlier report, Martin suggested the only way to avoid such violations is to have ballots delivered in-person to an election official. He said he decided not to prosecute any of the fall cases because the vast majority of people could not be identified beyond a reasonable doubt due to masks or video quality.

Martin in Tuesday’s news release said he hopes the possibility of penalties such as fines or imprisonment serve as a deterrent, and that voters abide by “both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

A Republican, Martin said the county’s investigation of ballot drops last fall started Jan. 20 after a complaint by Lehigh County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Vichot.

Vichot testified earlier this month before a state Senate committee and showed what he said was surveillance video at the county government center. Vichot said the county Republican committee asked for the video from the county and received it last November. 

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