“How an ‘Ice Cream Truck’ for Voting Could Stop Pennsylvania Ballots from Being Tossed”


Neil Makhija spent years promoting voter turnout in South Asian communities, and, as a professor of election law at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching new generations of attorneys about the fragility of the right to vote. But in 2020, he says, he felt frustrated watching the presidential race from the sidelines as then-President Donald Trump and his allies sought to invalidate lawful ballots and overturn election results with a barrage of failed lawsuits.

He decided to run for county commissioner in Montgomery County, a suburban area of 860,000 people northwest of Philadelphia. That board oversees more than half a billion dollars in annual spending across about 40 departments, but Makhija, a Democrat, says he was primarily motivated by one sliver of the body’s authority: setting rules for election administration. 

Having won his election last November, Makhija is now in a position to secure voting rights from the inside. County commissions in most of Pennsylvania double as boards of elections, with broad discretion over election procedures, handing Makhija power to help shape how voting is conducted in the third most populous county of this pivotal swing state. And he’s intent on getting creative.

Makhija tells Bolts he intends to propose that Montgomery County set up a mobile unit that’d go into neighborhoods to help people resolve mistakes they’ve made on their mail ballots.

He likens his proposal, which election experts say does not currently exist anywhere in Pennsylvania, to an ice cream truck for voting.

“Imagine if voting was as efficient and accessible as getting an Amazon delivery or calling an Uber,” Makhija told Bolts. “Exercising fundamental rights shouldn’t be more burdensome.”

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