HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The state Supreme Court has upheld Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law. That means you can still vote by mail without having to explain why.
In a decision along ideological lines, the justices say the law that created no-excuse mail-in voting in Pennsylvania is constitutional.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 5-2, overturning a lower court decision in January, which would have thrown out Act 77, which provides for no-excuse mail-in voting.
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“I’m not completely surprised, quite candidly. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has consistently ruled in that kind of a direction with its five to two majority of Democrat justices but I’m disappointed,” said Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon County).
Ryan is one of the two dozen Republican lawmakers trying to get rid of the law and one of many Republicans who voted for it in 2019. Donald Trump’s re-election loss made mail-in ballots a frequent target of Republicans, and GOP legislators sued, claiming it violated the state constitution.
“When Act 77 was passed, the Supreme Court immediately stripped out all the controls that were in place. So in my mind, it reinforced why it was unconstitutional,” Ryan said.
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Ryan points to the recent primary which had counties operating differently.
“Both Westmoreland and Allegheny County treated identically situated ballots differently because the Supreme Court did that. If it had been done through the constitutional amendment process that could not be done,” Ryan said.
In the majority opinion Tuesday, Justice Christine Donohue wrote, “We find no restriction in our constitution on the general assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting.”
“It was this new accessible tool that allowed so many more people to vote, by mail in a secure and convenient way,” said Meg Pierce, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “So I’m thrilled that we’re going to continue to have the opportunity to vote that way in Pennsylvania.”
Pierce says keeping mail-in ballots is important.
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“A lot of states have seen great success and turnout. So it’s just the next step in a long list of improvements that need to be made to make sure that elections are accessible for everyone,” Pierce said.
Pierce sees it as a long-term solution to increase voter turnout and make voting more equitable. “There (are) a lot of issues people care about and are at stake on the ballot. Having mail-in voting will ensure that as many Pennsylvania voters as possible can raise their voices in this election.”
Many voters’ rights groups and Democrats say gettting rid of mail-in ballots would disenfranchise voters. Ryan sees it differently.
“The election period under the way the current system is designed is really two weeks, not one day. So in fact you’re disenfranchising those voters who don’t have the up-to-date information,” Ryan said. “Are we going to allow people to change the vote after they cast it because they find out something two days before an election that they hadn’t thought about? It’s irrational to use that argument.”
Ryan says his colleagues on the lawsuit believe they have a reasonable basis to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the law.
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