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by Elizabeth Randol

One thing that is clear after the 2020 election and the ensuing lies and chaos fueled by the former president: attempts to undermine our democracy continue unabated in state capitols across the nation. As some GOP state legislators in Pennsylvania who sowed confusion and doubt about the results of the electoral college double-down on these lies, some pundits are speculating that this assault on democracy is only going to intensify in coming years.

Indeed, in Pennsylvania alone, no fewer than 14 pieces of legislation aimed at rolling back voting rights have been introduced so far this year…


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by Reggie Shuford

Black History Month is a dedicated time every year to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans and to reflect on the long struggle to finally realize the constitutional promise of liberty and justice for all.

After the past year, with both scenes of horror and moments of hope, it feels especially important to take some extra time and space this month to reflect on the progress we’ve made in the fight for racial justice and the real challenges that remain ahead.

It was a year that saw Black Americans especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic…


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by Reggie Shuford

Here’s a hard but undeniable truth: America has a short memory and a long tradition of revising history.

As we celebrate the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an annual reflection on his legacy that, at this point, feels as American as apple pie, it’s worth remembering that some members of Congress who opposed commemorating this day and honoring Dr. King are still in office and still making laws today.

Americans don’t just have a selective memory about the legacy of individuals, but also of institutions. How else to explain the deference and…


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by Mary Catherine Roper and Andrew Christy

It’s no secret that, in far too many ways, the criminal justice system criminalizes being poor. From the widespread use of cash bail, to incarceration as a punishment for a failure to pay parking or traffic tickets or fees associated with probation or parole, the system is tilted against those who are living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to find work.

But even as we work to dismantle systemic injustices in the criminal justice system, some stakeholders are unwilling to go along.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Montgomery County.

In May of 2018…


Note: videos contain scenes of violence and/or explicit language.

As protests for Black lives and against police violence began on May 30, 2020 in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department used overwhelming, racially-targeted, and excessive force to discourage these protesters from exercising their constitutional and human rights. Philadelphia police used force indiscriminately against protesters, legal observers, journalists, medical personnel, bystanders, and even residents in their homes.

At the same time, police empowered white groups, who were often armed with bats, clubs, and even military-style automatic weapons, to take over streets and parks, make threats of violence, and even assault protesters…


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by Vanessa Stine, Muneeba Talukder, and Erika Nyborg-Burch

Back in April, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of 22 people who were being detained by ICE in two county jails in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit urged the release of the plaintiffs, who all face serious health risks or worse if they contract COVID-19 because of their age, their underlying health conditions, or both.

We won that case. On April 10, 2020, our clients were released to their homes, their families, and their communities.

But in August, an appeals court vacated the decision, meaning that we…


The following questions and answers are based on conversations from ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Speaking Freely podcast episodes with Donnell Drinks, election protection coordinator from the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Alexa Grant, program advocate at Common Cause; and former Pennsylvania deputy secretary of state and election security expert Marian Schneider.

You can listen to the full episode of Speaking Freely with Donnell Drinks and Alexa Grant here.

You can listen to the full episode of Speaking Freely with Marian Schneider here.

Voting with a criminal record

What voting rights does a person with a criminal record have? Essentially the same voting rights as a person without…


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By Donnell Drinks, Election Protection Coordinator, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Donald Trump is doing everything he can to stop Americans from deciding his fate as president on November 3, even as he tries to rally his base with brazen appeals to white supremacists in press briefings, campaign rallies, and his Twitter feed.

His campaign has successfully blocked almost a million Florida voters from exercising their franchise because they can’t pay court fines and fees. And Trump’s newly-appointed postmaster general is trying to dismantle the postal service, which would limit access to mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. …


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Photo credit: Border Rights Center

By Vanessa Stine

With each passing day of Pennsylvania’s reopening during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s easier to believe that the worst of this public health crisis is behind us. The bustle of restaurants, bars, and retail shops seems to grow each day. Fewer people seem to be wearing masks out in public or practicing social distancing.

But the hard truth is that the virus hasn’t gone anywhere and continues to surge in many parts of the country.

Over the past months, there has been wide reporting about the spread of the virus in places where social distancing is nearly impossible…


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(Credit: Michelle Frankfurter/ACLU)

By Muneeba Talukder, Immigrants’ Rights Legal Fellow

A few weeks ago, Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, a 57-year-old man who had diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems tested positive for COVID-19 and died in immigration detention shortly after. Mr. Escobar Mejia had lived in the United States for four decades. He came to the U.S. as a teenager, fleeing from El Salvador with his mother and siblings after one of his brothers was killed in the civil war. He was in ICE custody since January and had been complaining about his symptoms for weeks before he was given medical attention.

ACLU of Pennsylvania

We are the ACLU’s Pennsylvania affiliate, defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy, and community education and outreach.

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