HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Thousands of Pennsylvania ballots are at risk of being thrown out if people don’t follow the new rules.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last week that county election offices can no longer count naked ballots. That has major implications for an election where a mail-in voting boom is expected.

Naked ballots are mail-in ballots that aren’t sent inside of the secrecy envelope.

York County Communications Director Mark Walter says that secrecy envelopes have always been included in the packet that voters receive with their mail-in ballot. “The purpose of it is another layer of protection and verification.”

County election offices in the commonwealth used to be able to count said naked ballots, however. Even without the envelope. This recent ruling means they can’t.

Suzanne Almeida with Common Cause PA says this change is important for voters to understand.

“Naked ballots — or ballots without the secrecy envelopes — are not allowed to be counted. So, it’s really really important that folks know the rules,” Almeida said.

The rule has the potential to make a big impact in this election, where more people are expected to vote by mail.

“We’re already up to over 2 million applications for vote by mail ballots. So that’s a huge huge increase over anything we’ve seen before. With that many people who are voting by mail it’s really important that every single one of those 2 million people know the rules,” Almeida said.

The new rule is fairly simple for voters to follow, as long as they know about it.

“You take your ballot and put it in the secrecy envelope, you seal that. You put that envelope in the outer envelope, you seal that, and then you sign the back,” Almeida said.

That’s why people like Almeida and Walters are doing what they can to get the word out and help people get their mail-in ballots counted.

“You have time. You can sit there. You can mull it over. You can do research. You can really check to make sure it’s done right and then enveloped correctly is the other thing to avoid the naked ballot,” Walters said.

If you want to vote by mail in Pennsylvania there are a few important deadlines to know:

  • You have to be registered to vote by October 19th
  • If you want to vote by mail, you have to apply to get that ballot by October 27th at 5 p.m.
  • If you want your vote to count, your ballot must be postmarked or turned into your election office by 8 p.m. on November 3rd – which is election day.

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