In an ongoing saga over Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law, GOP lawmakers in the state filed yet another lawsuit in an attempt to throw out Act 77, the law many of them voted in favor of that allows mail-in voting.
Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers are at it again, filing another court case in an attempt to throw out the state’s broad mail-in voting law, even as the commonwealth’s highest court considers a separate lawsuit with the same agenda.
It is just the latest fight over voting laws in Pennsylvania. And it comes just two months before voters can send in ballots for the fall election which features high-profile contests for governor and an open US Senate seat.
Filed Wednesday in the Commonwealth Court by 14 state Republican lawmakers, the lawsuit seeking to throw out Act 77 says the court must invalidate the law because of a provision written into it that says it is “void” if any of its requirements are struck down in court.
The lawsuit says the “non-severability” provision was triggered in a May 20 decision by a panel of the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals concerning mail-in ballots in a Lehigh County judicial race last November. The ballots in question lacked handwritten dates on the return envelopes as required by the law.
In the decision, the panel found that a handwritten date has no bearing on a voter’s eligibility and said it would violate voters’ civil rights to throw out their ballots in that election simply because they lacked a handwritten date.
The panel pointed out that ballots with incorrect dates had been counted. An appeal by the Republican candidate in the race is pending in the US Supreme Court.
A letter from Gov. Tom Wolf’s acting secretary of state, Leigh Chapman, written in response to a state lawmaker’s query, said the federal appeals court decision did not trigger the non-severability provision because the lawsuit had targeted Lehigh County’s decision to not count the ballots, not the validity of the date requirement.
Bruce Ledewitz, a Duquesne University law professor, said the federal appeals court did not necessarily find the handwritten date requirement to be unconstitutional — potentially undercutting the premise of the new lawsuit.
Pennsylvania’s 2019 mail-in voting law has become a hot topic for Republicans on the campaign trail, with Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano vowing to repeal it if he gets elected.
Most states offer mail-in voting for all voters, and every Republican lawmaker but one voted for Pennsylvania’s law in 2019.
But Republicans in Pennsylvania soured on mail-in voting after former President Donald Trump began baselessly attacking it as rife with fraud in his 2020 reelection campaign.
Last year, the same 14 Republican lawmakers — including 11 who actually voted for the law — sued to throw out the law, saying that prior court rulings make it clear that the constitution must be changed to allow no-excuse mail-in voting.
Nearly 5 million votes were cast by mail over 2020-21. As of August 2021, nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvania voters were signed up for permanent mail-in voting notification.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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