As one of the nation’s most crucial battleground states, Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking election legislation was temporarily overturned recently after being found illegal by a state court.
This move came after a tense last year, following a petition from Republican state legislators, petitioning that the statute was unconstitutional. Pennsylvania filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, resulting in an automatic suspension of the statute.
Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 77 into law in 2019 after it was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature. No-excuse absentee voting, a permanent mail-in voter list, a fifteen-day voter registration deadline reduction, and ninety million dollar expenditure in election infrastructure renovations were included in the bill. Straight-ticket voting was also abolished.
Voting ‘needs the personal presence of the elector’ and the majority ruling, issued by Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, a Republican, said that the legislature could not modify voting statutes without rewriting the state Constitution. Lawsuits were brought after the 2020 election by Republican Representative Mike Kelly of northern Pennsylvania, who contended that Act 77 was illegal.
HISTORY OF MAIL-IN VOTING
Voting by mail or absentee ballot is an alternative to casting a ballot in person on election day (generally by mail). Voting by mail or absentee ballot is permitted in every state. There are certain states that need an explanation from the voter before they may cast an absentee or mail-in ballot, while others allow any qualified voter to do so.
For the general election on November 3, 2020, thirty-nine states changed their standard and statutory election administration methods. COVID-19 has necessitated a wide range of changes, including delays to the voting date and expanded absentee or mail-in balloting options. Some individuals questioned whether or not these alterations were enough in light of the pandemic’s occurrence. Others alleged that these changes were implemented for partisan political purposes rather than in reaction to COVID-19.
The argument over these changes continued beyond the 2020 election cycle. There were two main avenues of inquiry, being [A.] if it was legal or politically correct to make the changes that were made in the 2020 elections and [B.] if the unprecedented voter turnout in 2020 was a result of these changes. If the latter argument held true, the obvious logic would be to consider whether the interim changes were to be made permanent. Alternatively, there is also a concern as to if these alterations have opened the door to election fraud.
in 2021, legislation aimed at extending or restricting these changes resulted from the ongoing discussion of these issues.
PROCEDURE FOR MAIL-IN BALLOT VOTING
A ballot is sent to the house of a registered voter in the United States, who fills it out and returns it by mail or in person at a secure drop box or voting center. Voting by mail saves polling places money on labor costs. All-mail elections may save money, although a combination of voting choices might cost more. Voting ballots may be sent without payments of postage in various states. Postal voting has been shown to improve voter participation since in theory, postal voting poses a larger chance of fraud than in-person voting. Besides fraud, processing huge numbers of votes and verifying signatures presents various difficulties.
All mail-in ballots have been used in the state elections of Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington beginning of July 2020. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia allow residents to vote by mail. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has generated more talk about removing some of those limits in other jurisdictions, which only allow postal voting in specific instances. In the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, President Donald Trump stated that he would withhold required funds for the postal service to guarantee that postal ballots are processed securely and on schedule after frequently saying that mail-in voting would result in rampant fraud. Republican legislators have launched a campaign to restrict postal voting in the 2020 election, citing accusations of significant voter fraud.
Postal ballots were used for persons who could not make it to the polls on election day before absentee voting was made available. The term ‘absentee ballots’ is still used by several states despite the fact that they are no longer required by state law. Permanent absentee voter status is available in certain states, while in others, all residents may apply for the status, which ensures that they will get an absentee ballot in every election. Before each election, a voter must apply for an absentee ballot.
Before the election, state laws dictate how far in advance ballots or applications for postal votes may be sent out. A voter’s booklet may also be provided in certain states. As a result, each ballot’s processing may be followed, sometimes publicly, and signature files associated with it can be swiftly loaded for speedy signature verification when an envelope is returned by a voter. The return envelope may be obtained from election officials or a plain envelope can be used in certain jurisdictions by voters who have misplaced theirs. By mail, a voter marks the ballot for the candidates they choose (or just puts in their name), then seals and dates the envelope, and mails it off. One envelope or a privacy sleeve may be used within an outer envelope in certain areas, to ensure confidentiality. Voters may either mail or drop off their voting envelopes at a local ballot dropbox.
The deadline is determined by state law. In some jurisdictions, postmarks are not counted, and ballots must be received by a certain time on election day. In other jurisdictions, a ballot must have a postmark on or before the day of the election and be received prior to the date of certification. Many vote-by-mail jurisdictions enlist the help of volunteers to take ballots in the walk-up drop-off booths or drive-up quick drop locations. The Help America Vote Act requires some polling options, often at central election headquarters, with voting machines designed for disabled people.
In many jurisdictions, all legal absentee votes are tallied, even if they will have no effect on the result of an election, even if the race is too close to call. Voting by mail was employed in certain counties, while absentee ballots were used in others.
UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUES SURROUNDING MAIL-IN VOTING IN PENNSYLVANIA
Millions of Americans choose to vote early in person or by mail in 2020 as a consequence of the epidemic, particularly among Democrats. The G.O.P. has implemented a slew of new voting restrictions in response to Donald Trump’s erroneous statements regarding absentee votes.
Two-pronged tactics are being used by the party: [A.] limiting the number of people who may vote and [B.] affording state legislatures more influence over the voting process. Concerns about the integrity of the American political process have been exacerbated by Republican efforts to tighten voting laws. Voters of color will be disproportionately affected by several of the limitations.
During the year 2021, nineteen states enacted thirty-four laws limiting the right to vote. Most key legislation was passed in battleground states like Texas and Georgia. A new set of laws may or may not affect elections. There are several rules that will make it more difficult for particular people to vote, generate confusion, or cause longer lines at polling stations.
However, Republican efforts to invalidate the 2020 election based on Act 77 arguments persisted. Rioters stormed the Capitol soon after. In the wee hours of the morning, Pennsylvanians began to take their seats in the state’s legislature.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT PENNSYLVANIA VOTING STATUTES
It was confirmed on Friday that the two-year-old mail-in voting statute in Pennsylvania is illegal, in accordance with Republican complaints. After three Republican and two Democratic judges issued a party-line ruling, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration promptly appealed to the state Supreme Court, preventing it from invalidating the statute.
While this is a positive development for the state’s upcoming 2022 elections for governor and senator, the Commonwealth Court ruling casts doubt on the state’s voting regulations. In 2019, all voters will be able to cast their ballots by mail, with no excuses, according to the Republican-controlled Legislature. Legislation is expanding on a state constitution clause requiring the state to give a choice for voters in certain situations.
Only one Republican member voted against the measure, which was passed in an agreement with Wolf in order to include a mail-in ballot option. In return, Wolf promised to remove the straight-ticket voting ballot option Republicans had hoped to use to safeguard their suburban candidates from an anti-Trump tsunami in the 2020’s election.
Legislators may extend absentee voting to non-legislators if the constitution does not clearly prohibit it. An appeal by Wolf’s office means that the lower court’s order will not take effect immediately, and he slammed Republicans for attempting to sabotage the legislation ‘in the service of Trump’s false election fraud charges.’
WHAT DID ACT 77 ACHIEVE
There has been no proof of major voting fraud in Pennsylvania or any other state, despite the persistent falsehoods promoted by Trump and his backers. No justification exists in Pennsylvania for eliminating the option to vote by mail. Pennsylvania’s ‘no-excuse mail-in voting statute’ was deemed unlawful by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on Friday, allowing voters to cast their votes by mail without giving an explanation for their absence.
According to the action, Doug McLinko is seeking an order that declares that Pennsylvania’s Election Code’s Article 13-D violates the state’s constitution. Act 77 inserted Article XIII-D, which states that ‘any eligible elector may vote by mail.’ ‘ It concurred with McLinko, finding ‘that Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution is violated‘
To eliminate Article VII, Section 1, the necessity for in-person voting is likely to be approved by the people if given to them. However, before legislation permitting no-excuse mail-in voting can ‘be placed into our statute books,’ a constitutional amendment must be put forward to the people and ratified into the basic law.
This verdict will not have any effect on Pennsylvania’s upcoming primary elections and might be overturned by the state’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court concluded that if the state wishes to implement no-excuse absentee voting, it must alter the state Constitution.
Voting by mail in the state’s forthcoming primary election in May will not be affected by the verdict, according to the U.S. State Department. Associated Press reports that the decision will be immediately placed on hold if this occurs. The State Supreme Court, in contrast to the Commonwealth Court, has a Democratic majority and has previously supported statutes requiring voters to cast ballots through the mail. The Philadelphia Inquirer said that Democratic voting rights supporters worried that even a short setback might be devastating because it would further erode public confidence in the political process in Pennsylvania.
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1. The state court concurred with them, ruling 3 to 2.
2. For instance, was it done in line with state law when secretaries of state unilaterally imposed changes? Aside from legal issues, were these alterations implemented in a politically responsible manner?
3. However known incidents of such fraud are very rare, with one database showing just 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud between 2000 and 2012.
4. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Pub.L. 107–252 )), or HAVA is a United States federal law which passed in the House 357-48 and 92-2 in the Senate and was signed into law by President Bush on October 29, 2002. The bill was drafted (at least in part) in reaction to the controversy surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential election when almost two million ballots were disqualified because they registered multiple votes or none when run through vote-counting machines
The goals of HAVA are:
replace punchcard and lever-based voting systems;
create the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of federal elections; and
establish minimum election administration standards.
5. About a quarter of all votes cast in the 2016 US Presidential election were cast through postal voting.
6. As a consequence of the outcome of their gamble, they would now turn the table, dispersing the votes of millions of Pennsylvanians,’ wrote Justice David Wecht after the election. Our job isn’t to legitimize such blatant and premature attempts to defy the will of Pennsylvania voters. ‘ ‘When the will of the people is evident, courts should not judge elections.’
Mr. Kelly’s appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was likewise refused.
7. Hawley said that the state legislature approved Act 77 ‘irregardless’ of what the state’s constitution stated on Jan. 6, 2021, challenging the slate of electors from Pennsylvania.
8. Situations such as being out of town on business, being sick, having a physical impairment, having election day obligations, or participating in religious services are all examples.
9. Voter fraud was determined to be rare in Pennsylvania and the other five key swing states where Trump contested his defeat to Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Voter fraud accounted for just 0.03 percent of Joe Biden’s winning margin in 11 of the state’s 67 counties, according to election authorities. Moreover, 80,000 votes separated him from Donald Trump in Pennsylvania.
10. Pennsylvania’s Constitution compels eligible voters to cast their votes in person at specified polling sites unless they meet an absentee voting exemption, McLinko said.
By ballot or by such other way as may be authorized by law,’ said Acting Secretary Degraffenreid in defense of no-excuse mail-in voting. A dismissal of McLinko’s revised petition with prejudice on procedural grounds or, alternatively, for lack of substantial merit, was what Degraffenreid requested.
11. According to the court’s judgment, around 1.38 million voters have indicated that they would like to vote by mail in the future.
12. Lawmakers from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, including Representative Timothy R. Bonner, filed a similar action against the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. A no-excuse mail-in balloting amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution was recommended by the court, but the ruling ‘expresses no conclusion as to whether or not such a system should or should not be enacted as a matter of public policy.
13. ‘We strongly disagree with today’s decision and are planning to submit an early appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,’ the Pennsylvania Department of State.