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Rapp takes counties, Department of State to court

Litigation in advance of the upcoming primary and general elections is in full swing.

And Rep. Kathy Rapp is at the center of the fight in state court, filing suit in a case which names the Warren County Board of Elections as a respondent.

That case was filed by Rapp and Rep. David Zimmerman, a Lancaster/Bucks County Republican, in state Commonwealth Court.

The Department of State, Secretary of State and each county’s Board of Elections were named in the suit.

The case focuses on a provision in the Pennsylvania Constitution – Article VII, Section 14 – that they assert requires absentee ballots to be returned to individual precincts, rather than county elections offices.

Zimmerman and Rapp say in their legal filing that “the official guidance provided by … Department of State, and/or the practice and policy that has been adopted by each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania” says that “absentee votes be delivered to and canvassed on a county-wide basis at the offices of the relevant county boards of elections.”

The suit states that Warren County is one of 21 counties where “the county’s board of elections receives and

canvasses the absentee votes. …”

“Through necessary implication, the county board of elections — and not the election officials at the local policing place, precinct, or election district — will originally and solely canvass the absentee ballots.”

The filing details that absentee voting was first granted to Union soldiers during the American Civil War.

The specific term at issue here was added in 1949.

“While absentee voting, as authorized by the Pennsylvania Constitution, permitted absentee ballots to be cast from outside the local polling place or precinct,” they argue, “the concept of absentee voting did not upset the longstanding legal requirements and prevailing notion that ballots must be returned to and canvassed at the local polling place or precinct.

“To ensure the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral franchise, including her next reelection, Petitioner Rapp requests that the absentee votes be delivered to and counted at the local polling place or precinct in accordance with Article VII, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution,” the document states.

The Warren County Commissioners approved an agreement at their last meeting to hire outside counsel to represent them in this suit.

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