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Pennsylvania Supreme Court votes to uphold state’s mail-in voting law

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On Tuesday, the state of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court voted 5-2 to uphold the expansion of their 2019 mail-in voting law. This decision will allow residents to vote by mail in all future elections.

“We find no restriction in our Constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting,” wrote Justice Christine Donohue in the majority opinion. The decision overturned a lower court’s decision in January, where a Republican-led Pennsylvania court deemed the legislation unconstitutional.

“The administration will immediately appeal this decision to the state Supreme Court and today’s lower court ruling will have no immediate effect on mail-in voting pending a final decision on the appeal,” a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement at the time. Before the 2019 law, mail-in voting was only available to those who could not vote in person for specific reasons.

In a dissent, Justice Kevin Brobson stated that the majority has gone against 160 years of court authority. “Today, this court upends the tradition and historic preference in this commonwealth for in-person voting without the requisite ‘special justification’ and important reasons necessary to set aside long-standing precedent,” Brobson wrote. “Mere disagreement with that precedent is not enough.”

The majority cited a provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution that concerns “method of elections” and states all elections will be conducted by ballot “or by such other method as may be prescribed by law.” Donohue also noted that the constitutional provision permits the general assembly to “prescribe any process by which electors may vote,” with the sole requirement that a high degree of secrecy must be maintained.

In another dissent, Republican Justice Sallie Mundy said it was “self-evident that the integrity of electoral actions becomes more difficult to verify when they are undertaken at a distance and outside of public scrutiny,” stating that fraud will be difficult to pick up on and will also leave the door open to general mistakes as votes will not benefit from the assistance of election officials at polling places.

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