Hundreds of people rallied in Lancaster City’s Penn Square on Wednesday evening to call for the continued counting of mail-in ballots in the county, statewide and nationally for Tuesday’s general elections.
The last-minute rally was organized by Lancaster Stands Up, CASA and other community leaders as President Donald Trump called for the counting of mail-in ballots to be halted. By Wednesday evening, the president’s campaign had filed to join the Pennsylvania GOP’s lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to not count mail-in ballots that arrived after 8 p.m. on Election Day and by Friday.
In Lancaster, the county’s Republican-led board of elections said earlier this week that mail-in ballots returned after the polls closed would not be counted immediately, citing changing guidance from Pennsylvania Department of State and a possible ruling from The U.S. Supreme Court. On Wednesday, Commissioner Josh Parsons said if the county’s current voting system is able to subtract tallied votes -- in case SCOTUS rules against counting the contested ballots -- the decision to delay counting them could be reviewed. Parsons reiterated that the county elections office will tally the ballots by the deadline unless otherwise directed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Not counting all votes postmarked by Nov. 3 equates to “voter suppression,” multiple speakers at the rally said.
“Don’t treat me special, treat me as an American,” Pastor Gerald Simmons of Faith Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Lancaster City said. “Counting every vote means that we are recognized as human beings and Americans.”
The rally drew about 300 people, filling the quadrant of the square in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and spilling across North Queen Street. Attendees were holding signs that said “Count Every Vote,” “I Voted” and “Black Votes Matter.”
The eight speakers at the event included city leadership, clergy and community activists, such as Lancaster NAACP President Blanding Watson and Francis Borgen, a sophomore at J.P. McCaskey High School and a member of Lancaster Sunrise Movement.
Jess King, chief of staff for the Lancaster city mayor’s office, said she saw “hope” while at a polling location in Southeast Lancaster on Tuesday, but she also saw confusion about changed voting locations and frustration over not understanding how provisional ballots work.
“There is so much more we can do to make voting easier for more people than harder, like it was for too many people this time around,” King said.
Jasmine Sanchez, with CASA Lancaster, said she voted for the first time in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Sanchez, from Puerto Rico, spoke in Spanish while Rafael Diaz, of Lancaster Stands Up, translated for the crowd.
Sanchez said that she applied for mail-in ballots for herself and her mother for this election because going to the polls in-person would have risked her terminally ill mother’s health. However, after not receiving her mother’s ballot and multiple attempts to get instructions from the county’s election board, they ended up voting in person on Tuesday.
“I experienced first hand how our experiences are created so that the voices of our Latino people and people of color are not heard,” Sanchez said. “No one should have to choose between their life and their vote.”
Throughout the night, speakers directly spoke about Lancaster’s delayed counting of some mail-in ballots.
“What we’re going to do, what this country is going to do, is count every vote,” Ismail Smith-Wade-El, president of Lancaster city council, said.