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Pennsylvania court throws out GOP lawsuit that sought to ban voting by mail

It’s the latest lawsuit based on election lies repeated by former President Donald Trump that has failed in court.

By Emily Singer - June 29, 2023
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Pennsylvania 2022 mail-in ballot
Mail-in Pennsylvania ballot in Pittsburgh, Oct. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Voting by mail remains legal for all voters in Pennsylvania after its Commonwealth Court threw out a lawsuit that sought to ban the voting method except for those who requested and received approved absentee ballots.

The lawsuit sought to toss out Act 77, a 2019 law that allows all voters in the state to vote by mail if they wish. Previously, voters in Pennsylvania had to vote in person unless they were going to be out of their voting municipality on election day or had a physical disability or illness that prevented them from getting to the polls.

It was filed by 14 Republican state lawmakers who claimed that the law should be voided because of a nonseverability provision in it that says it will become invalid if any of its provisions are struck down by a court. The lawmakers, 11 of whom voted for Act 77 when it passed in 2019, had claimed that a ruling in a previous case had triggered the nonseverability provision.

The Associated Press reported that the lawmakers had cited a ruling in May 2022 by a U.S. appeals court that allowed ballots in a judicial election in Lehigh County that lacked a required handwritten date to be counted; they claimed that the ruling constituted invalidation of the provision of Act 77 requiring the date, and therefore invalidated the entire law.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania disagreed, noting in its ruling: “Interpreting the statute, the Third Circuit and this Court concluded that the statute did not require an otherwise timely received, valid absentee or mail-in ballot cast by an eligible Pennsylvania elector to be thrown out. … These interpretations did not invalidate the Dating Provisions, as neither opinion struck the Dating Provisions from the Election Code or held that electors cannot or should not handwrite a date on the declaration in accordance with those provisions.”

Republicans have been trying to ban voting by mail in the states since former President Donald Trump began attacking the practice ahead of his failed 2020 reelection bid and falsely claimed it is prone to fraud.

In Pennsylvania alone, Republicans have unsuccessfully tried to get courts to either ban voting by mail or toss out mail-in ballots multiple times.

In March, the Commonwealth Court dismissed a Republican National Committee lawsuit that sought to block voters in the state from curing their ballots. Curing is a process that allows voters to fix technical mistakes on their mail-in ballots.

In August 2022, the state Supreme Court tossed out a GOP challenge to Act 77 that claimed the law violated the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Democrats, who have embraced voting by mail in the past two election cycles, celebrated yet another failure of Republican efforts to ban the voting method.

“Democrats have successfully fought back against Republicans’ ongoing and baseless efforts to attack Pennsylvanians’ popular right to vote by mail and obstruct how elections are administered,” the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Pennsylvania Democratic Party said in a joint statement. “We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect the ability of all Pennsylvanians to exercise their right to participate in our democracy and to oppose Republicans’ voter suppression tactics.”

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro vowed to protect the right to vote.

“So long as I’m your Governor, your freedom to vote will not be infringed upon in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro tweeted Wednesday night.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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