The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday that ballots received three days after Election Day will still be counted — even if there is no evidence they were postmarked on time.
Democrats scored two judicial victories in Pennsylvania on Thursday, when the court kicked the Green Party presidential candidate off the ballot, and ruled that mailed-in ballots could still be counted util 5:00 p.m. ET on the third day after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by 8:00 p.m ET that day.
The court added: that “ballots received within this period” — i.e. between November 3 and 6 –“that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”
In a footnote, the court explains its reasoning, saying that disqualifying a ballot without a postmark would “disenfranchise a voter based upon the absence or illegibility of a USPS postmark that is beyond the control of the voter once she places her ballot in the USPS delivery system.”
Democrats lost on other issues in the case, known as PA Dem Party. v. Boockvar.
The three-day extension is less, for example, than the seven-day extension Democrats had originally sought. Though the court argued, controversially, that it had the authority, under “extraordinary jurisdiction” due to the coronavirus pandemic, which had the character of a “natural disaster,” to extend the deadline past the statutory date, it did not grant a full week.
The court also rejected a demand that county election boards be required to contact voters to inform them of an “incomplete or incorrectly completed ballot,” since there was “no constitutional or statutory basis” for the demand.
And the the court rejected a demand that mailed-in ballots that arrived “naked” — without an envelope to guarantee secrecy — be counted: “Upon careful examination of the statutory text, we conclude that the Legislature intended for the secrecy envelope provision to be mandatory.”
However, Democrats persuaded the court to allow county election boards to designate alternative locations for mail-in ballots to be hand-delivered including “drop-boxes.” And they persuaded the court to uphold a legal requirement that poll-watchers be residents of the country where they were observing the vote.
In a similar case decided Thursday, Crossey v. Boockvar, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected a demand that county election boards allow third parties to deliver ballots for other people — the controversial practice known as “ballot harvesting.” The practice is illegal almost everywhere except California, and the court noted that it is still illegal in Pennsylvania, too.
Other developments were more advantageous to Democrats. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) agreed to a demand by several litigants — including the League of Women Voters (LWV) and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh — that county officials not inspect the signatures on mail-in ballots to match them with the signatures on file.
That policy change, which ended the court cases involved, has been denounced by Republicans as creating opportunities for fraud.
Author: Joel B. Pollak