Loading...

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Mail-In Voting Expansion

August 5, 2022 by Dan McCue
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Mail-In Voting Expansion
A voter drops off his mail ballot for the 2022 Pennsylvania primary elections in Newtown Square, Pa., on May 2. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania mail-in voting law that greatly expanded the population eligible to vote that way has survived a legal challenge before the state’s Supreme Court.

In a 5-2 ruling handed down Tuesday, the Democratic majority on the court overturned a lower court ruling from January that said Pennsylvania’s Act 77 violated the state constitution.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, all voters in the key swing state will be able to cast ballots by mail in November and in all future state and federal elections.

“We find no restriction in our constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting,” Justice Christine Donohue wrote in the majority opinion.

Act 77 passed with strong bipartisan support in 2019, but it has been a bone of contention among Republicans ever since the November 2020 presidential election.

The irony of the legal challenge was that it was brought by many of the same Republican state lawmakers who voted in favor of the legislation just three years ago.

After the Republican-controlled lower court threw out the legislation, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf appealed the case on the grounds the judges had based their rulings on older versions of the state constitution that had invalidated earlier attempts to expand absentee voting.

Attorneys for the governor argued that the state constitution only establishes a minimum requirement for absentee voting — a floor, if you will — but does not bar steps taken to go beyond those minimums.

As an example, they pointed out that military spouses have been allowed to vote absentee and with mail-in ballots for years, despite the fact nothing in the state constitution specifically makes that allowance.

Despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling, litigation over Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot continues. Last month, 14 Republican state lawmakers filed yet another attempt to get the law tossed.

The new complaint points to a separate provision of the state constitution that states a law will become void as soon as any of its requirements are struck down by a court.

The lawmakers contend the so-called “non-severability” provision was triggered in May by a ruling in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The underlying case stemmed from a judicial election last year, in which mail-in ballots were challenged due to their not being embossed with a handwritten date. A three-judge 3rd Circuit panel ultimately held that the requirement in the mail-in ballot law requiring a handwritten date had no bearing on a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.

More than half of states now allow no-excuse absentee voting. Pennsylvania joined them after Wolf agreed to a deal with Republicans that also did away with the straight-ticket voting by party option on ballots.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

In The News

Health

Voting

Voting

October 4, 2022
by Dan McCue
Conservative Justices Appear Inclined to Further Narrowing of Voting Rights Act

WASHINGTON — After nearly two hours of oral argument on Tuesday, a number of conservative justices on the Supreme Court... Read More

WASHINGTON — After nearly two hours of oral argument on Tuesday, a number of conservative justices on the Supreme Court appeared to be sympathetic to Alabama’s request that key provisions of the Voting Rights Act be narrowed when it comes to the lawfulness of electoral maps.... Read More

September 23, 2022
by Dan McCue
Judge Rules Maryland Can Start Counting Mail-In Ballots Oct. 1

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Board of Elections officials across the state of Maryland can begin counting mail-in ballots for the November... Read More

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Board of Elections officials across the state of Maryland can begin counting mail-in ballots for the November election on Oct. 1, a state circuit court judge ruled on Friday. The Maryland State Board of Elections had filed a petition asking for emergency authorization... Read More

Disabled Voters Win in Wisconsin; Legal Fights Elsewhere

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Trudy Le Beau has voted in every major election since she turned 18 — a half-century... Read More

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Trudy Le Beau has voted in every major election since she turned 18 — a half-century of civic participation that has gotten increasingly difficult as her multiple sclerosis progressed. Now, with no use of her arms or legs, the Wisconsin woman relies... Read More

Conservative Bolduc Wins New Hampshire's GOP Senate Primary

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc won New Hampshire’s Senate Republican primary on Wednesday and will face potentially... Read More

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc won New Hampshire’s Senate Republican primary on Wednesday and will face potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan in November – setting up another test of whether a fierce conservative can appeal to more moderate general election voters. Bolduc wasn’t formally endorsed by... Read More

Post-Roe Differences Surface in GOP Over New Abortion Rules

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court repealed in June a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, Wisconsin's 1849 law... Read More

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court repealed in June a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, Wisconsin's 1849 law that bans the procedure except when a mother's life is at risk became newly relevant. Republicans in the Legislature blocked an attempt by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to... Read More

August 17, 2022
by Dan McCue
As Alaskans Vote in Primary, DOJ Monitors Voting Rights Compliance

WASHINGTON — As Alaskans went to the polls on Tuesday, the Justice Department deployed monitors “in certain jurisdictions” of the... Read More

WASHINGTON — As Alaskans went to the polls on Tuesday, the Justice Department deployed monitors “in certain jurisdictions” of the state to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, the DOJ said in a brief press release sent out Tuesday morning, the department... Read More

News From The Well