A Pennsylvania statewide court handed down a huge victory for election integrity as the 2022 midterm elections continue to draw near.
According to WPMT-TV, a Commonwealth Court filing released on Friday showed the court found a provision allowing Pennsylvania residents to vote by mail without excuse violated the Pennsylvania constitution.
Known as Act 77, the law first passed in 2019. According to WPMT, Republicans initially backed the bill as a compromise with Democrats.
Pennsylvania Republicans wanted to eliminate the option for straight-ticket voting, which allowed residents to cast votes for every candidate of a particular party with just one mark at the top of a ballot.
Democrats were largely in favor of straight-ticket voting, so state Republicans needed to make a concession of their own in order to gain enough support for the bill. As a result, they added the provision in Act 77 allowing for universal mail-in voting, WPMT reported.
When the coronavirus pandemic rocked the nation in 2020, it also highlighted many potential shortfalls in systems around the country. Those snags included not just the incompetency of many divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services, but also concerns about elections.
The 2020 election saw unprecedented numbers of mail-in ballots across America, and Pennsylvania was no exception. Over one third of all votes cast in the state were cast by mail, WPMT reported.
With this increase came questions about the integrity of mail-in ballots. As more mail-in ballots were cast, the possibility for fraud in this method of voting became much more apparent.
Mail-in ballots are not inherently fraudulent, but they can be subject to fraud in a variety of ways. Unlike in-person votes, these ballots are not typically monitored by an election worker when they are cast, and that in and of itself increases the possibility of fraud.
Republicans realized during the 2020 election that they had a mistake. There was a reason Pennsylvania’s constitution only allowed for mail-in ballots from people who qualified for absentee voting.
Of course, the media would want to paint the Republicans as hypocrites for going against a bill they had previously supported. WPMT suggested Pennsylvania Republicans “soured on mail-in voting after then-President Donald Trump began baselessly attacking it as rife with fraud in 2020′s campaign.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf made the same argument, and he vowed to appeal the court’s ruling.
“The Republican-controlled legislature passed Act 77 with strong bipartisan support in 2019 to make voting more safe, secure, and accessible and millions of Pennsylvanians have embraced it,” he said in a statement.
“The simple fact is that despite near-unanimous Republican legislative support for this historic update to Pennsylvania election law, they now want to strip away mail-in voting in the service of the ‘big lie.'”
It is possible, however, that Republicans in the state simply learned from experience. After an election full of mail-in voting, they saw the number of concerns such a voting method can raise.
In addition, Republicans’ new concerns with mail-in voting did not just spring up out of the blue after a lost election. Instead, they stem from the Pennsylvania constitution itself.
According to WPMT, Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania constitution states voting must be conducted in person unless the voter qualifies for absentee voting. In order to amend the constitution, the voters of Pennsylvania would have to approve the measure.
Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt said if such an amendment were put before the voters, it would probably be approved.
“[A] constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation allowing no-excuse mail-in voting can be ‘placed upon our statute books,'” Leavitt wrote, according to WPMT.
No matter what decision Pennsylvania Republicans made back in 2019, the simple fact is that universal mail-in balloting presents unnecessary opportunity for fraud. Elections in Pennsylvania will be more secure after this decision.
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