(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld the legality of mail-in voting.
The decision was announced on Aug. 2.
“We find no restriction in our Constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting,” the court opinion said.
In its decision, the court recapped the history of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania — that it was enacted through bi-partisan legislation that was “enormously popular.” Act 77, which established state-wide, universal mail-in voting, passed the state Senate 35-14 with Republicans voting 27-0 in favor in 2019. In the state House, it passed 138-61 with 105 Republicans supporting the act.
(The act also eliminated straight-ticket voting, moved the voter registration deadline closer to election day, allocated funding for upgraded voting systems, and made changes to poll worker pay structures.)
Act 77 passed before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was in place during the commonwealth’s primary election in 2020. It was only challenged — the Aug. 2 court opinion noted — after the general election when it was clear that the Republican candidate for president was losing.
“… the petitioners waited until the ballots from the General Election were in the process of being tallied, and the results were becoming apparent, to raise their claim,” the court wrote.
Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement in support of mail-in voting after the decision on Aug. 2.
“Voting is a fundamental right — a right that we should ensure is accessible for all voters. Mail-in voting is a safe, secure and legal option for Pennsylvania voters to exercise that right. I will continue to advocate for voting reforms that remove barriers and increase access to voting,” Wolf said.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro also commented on the decision.
“With this ruling, the court has provided certainty to voters — certainty that however people cast their vote, in person or by mail, it will be counted,” Shapiro said. “After two years of consistent attacks on our election system and our voters, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated loud and clear that Act 77, which modernized our election code, is constitutional. We must continue to stand up to attacks by those who want to pick and choose the laws to follow and the votes to count.”
The Acting Secretary of State, Leigh M. Chapman, said the decision offered assurances to Pennsylvania voters, and Chapman provided some statistics on mail-in voting.
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“It ensures voters can exercise their fundamental right to vote regardless of barriers such as illness, work schedules, childcare issues or other events that could hinder them from voting at the polls on Election Day,” Chapman said. “Voting by mail-in ballot remains a popular option with voters, with a total of more than 5.3 million mail-in ballots cast in the five elections since Act 77 became law. This historic legislation was the most expansive election reform Pennsylvania has seen in more than 80 years.”