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Judge holds preliminary hearing on Lancaster County ballot drop box case

The ACLU-Pa. laid out its arguments against the Lancaster County Commissioners for allegedly violating the Sunshine Act yesterday.

LANCASTER, Pa. — A judge held a preliminary hearing in the Lancaster County ballot drop box removal case. 

The ACLU is accusing Lancaster County commissioners of violating the Sunshine Act when deciding to remove the county's only ballot drop box.

About a dozen residents and activists were on-hand to attend Thursdays hearing at the Lancaster County Courthouse. Spectator Eliza Booth says today's hearing represents a fight to protect voting rights for county residents.

"The drop box should remain and should be out where people can access it," said Booth. "It makes it easier to vote, and that’s what this democracy is about."

LaRock Hudson, the political action chair of the Lancaster NAACP, says it was important for come out and support the residents who brought the case against the county commissioners.

"Those folks take an active part in the process, even when it comes to part of the judicial process and holding folks accountable. It's very important," said Hudson.

Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D'Agostino says the ACLU's lawsuit is frivolous. He argues that the decision to remove the ballot box is an administrative decision, and that the county did nothing wrong when discussing the issue.

"Having a drop box is not in the law," explained D'Agostino. "We went above and beyond, quite frankly, when the question came up and discussed it in a public meeting and laid out reasons why we didn’t feel it was appropriate to have a drop box, because we didn't want anyone inadvertently breaking the law."

Duncan Hopkins disagrees with the Commissioner's view. He was present at the April meeting when the Lancaster County Board of Elections decided to remove the ballot drop boxes, and was called to the stand as a witness for the ACLU.

Hopkins argues that Lancaster County residents need more of a say when deciding the fate of the ballot drop box.

"If they want to take it away, then vote for it," said Hopkins. "But that needs to be a public decision."

As of Thursday morning, the Lancaster County Board of Elections has received 49,399 mail/absentee ballots ahead of the Pennsylvania primary elections.

The judge presiding over the case says he may render his decision by Friday.

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