The American Civil Liberties Union and 21 other organizations have sent a joint letter to Leahy County Attorney Jim Martin condemning his plan to monitor ballot boxes ahead of the May 17 primary election to make sure voters only submitted their own ballots stating that it is equally illegal intimidation of voters.

“We respectfully ask you to reconsider your ill-conceived ballot monitoring plan, as it threatens the free exercise of the basic right to vote by citizens of the Lehigh County,” the letter said, adding that using law enforcement to monitor ballot boxes “seems to cross the border illegally.” harassment and intimidation of voters, which is prohibited by both federal and Pennsylvania law. ”

Martin announced on April 26 that voters in the May primary elections were “informed” that voters can only place their own ballot envelope in the mailboxes or ballot boxes that Likhai County used in the last election.

Detectives personally review CCTV tapes and boxes. Martin said anyone who withdrew more than one ballot could face prosecution and a fine of up to $ 2,500 or two years in prison.

The announcement came after Martin’s release report last month in response to a letter from the county republican committee stating that video surveillance showed that many people had submitted more than one ballot.

Martin’s report says at least 288 people handed in more than one ballot in five constituencies between Oct. 18 and election day, Nov. 2. He said no one will be prosecuted because it is impossible to identify most people because of the masks from the pandemic and the poor quality of the recordings from the surveillance cameras.

Martin said he hoped possible fines would keep people from dropping more than one ballot and that “voters will follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

In its letter, signed jointly with Disability Rights Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, the Common Cause Pennsylvania and other groups, the ACLU says Martin’s interpretation of the election law is wrong.

“Restrictions on the issuance of ballots to others is not, as you claim, absolute,” it said. “A person is allowed to hand in more than one ballot if this voter is an authorized person who by law has the right to assist in voting. Many voters with disabilities are physically unable to bring their ballot into the mailbox or return it in person to the district offices.

“Your general statement that a person can only make one envelope, their own, is simply inaccurate.”

Martin said the letter was “about what I expect from the ACLU”.

“It’s too inflated,” he said. “We are not going to intimidate anyone. I made it clear that we are going to monitor through video surveillance and from time to time may have detectives in person. The only time they ever interact is when they see someone contributing more than one ballot. “

Martin said he instructed detectives to investigate the circumstances.

“If someone says, ‘This is for my disabled mother,’ we are investigating that statement,” he said. “If this is true, we will not persecute anyone.”

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The county will have five ballot boxes for the May primaries. In addition to the government center, they will be housed in the Whitehall township, the Lehigh County administration in Allentown, the Fountain Hill-Borough building and the Makunga town building.

Pennsylvania voters were allowed to vote by mail without excuses under a bipartisan measure passed in 2019, but the changes became controversial after using them in the 2020 election in the midst of a pandemic. Former President Donald Trump has unreasonably claimed that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud.

The ACLU letter is the last turn of Martin’s plan. Earlier on Thursday, Acting Secretary of State Lee Chapman said she was concerned about the idea..

“There is a long history of voter intimidation in this country, and the mere presence of the police at the ballot box can deter voters from voting,” Chapman said. “We are having internal discussions at the State Department about the best way to contact Lehigh County about this, but it is a cause for concern.”

In a news release on April 28, several Likhai County leaders and State House candidates called Martin’s plan a “criminalization of democracy” and a “misuse of taxpayers’ money, misuse of office, and likely intimidation of voters.”

At an event on April 27, Lehi Phillips Armstrong, head of the county, also criticized Martin’s plan. “I’m not sure we want to imprison a 72-year-old man for withdrawing his wife’s ballot,” he said. “I don’t think taxpayers would want to pay for this person to go to jail.”

Morning call reporter Daniel Patrick Sheen can be reached at 610-820-6598 or

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