Pennsylvania: Philadelphia is not giving equal polling place access to disabled voters | Laura Benshoff/Votebeat

The challenges faced by voters with disabilities in Philadelphia are brought to light, revealing the city’s shortcomings in providing equal access to the voting process. Despite legal requirements for accessibility, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, voters with disabilities still encounter obstacles. Issues include the absence of necessary equipment for wheelchair accessibility and a lack of consideration for accommodations. While progress has been made, there is a need for ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities can exercise their right to vote independently and without barriers. The article highlights past legal actions, ongoing complaints, and the importance of maintaining a continuous focus on accessibility to create an inclusive voting experience for all citizens. Read Article

Pennsylvania judge rules in-person 2020 ballot images in Lycoming county are not accessible to public | John Beauge/pennlive.com

A judge in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, ruled that images of votes cast in person during the 2020 general election are not public. The state Department of State appealed the decision, which also involved the public access to cast vote records (CVR). The judge determined that since a voted in-person ballot is considered part of the ballot box contents, the same applies to an image of that ballot. The Department of State argued that CVRs should be exempt from public disclosure, as they are equivalent to the contents of a modern-day ballot box. The ongoing legal battle prevents the implementation of the judge’s order, but his rulings may serve as precedents for future cases. Read Article

Pennsylvania Democrats want counties to be able to count mail ballots faster. Here’s why changes are unlikely. | Gillian McGoldrick and Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Newly empowered Pennsylvania House Democrats, in a position to move election legislation for the first time since the 2020 election, are proposing a change to allow mail ballots to be processed earlier so they can be counted faster. The change is widely backed by elections administrators across the state — but the bill doesn’t have the backing of Republicans, who control the Senate. Currently, mail ballots can’t be opened in Pennsylvania until 7 a.m. on Election Day. In high-turnout elections, that means the days-long process of counting millions of mail ballots can’t begin until Election Day. In 2020, that meant days before we knew who won the White House. House Bill 847 would allow counties to begin “pre-canvassing” — activities such as opening envelopes or unfolding ballots, but not counting them — seven days before Election Day. It would also standardize how counties allow voters to correct mail ballot errors, change the mail ballot request deadline from the current seven days to 11 days before Election Day, and allow voters to request mail ballots at their county elections offices until the day before Election Day.

Full Article: Pa. pre-canvassing bill: Democrats propose election vote counting change

Pennsylvania Supreme Court angrily sanctions county for violating order on Dominion voting machines | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday said Fulton County had blatantly defied the court when it allowed a third-party company to access its 2020 voting machines. The county had first given a firm access to its Dominion voting machines in the weeks after the 2020 election, prompting the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, to decertify the machines and ask the court to block the county from giving any further access. The court agreed, ordering the machines be kept secure. Fulton County gave another company access to its voting machines anyway, leading the justices to impose sanctions on the county and its attorneys in the form of repaid legal fees for both the state and Dominion. “No remedy can undo the harm that the county’s contempt caused,” Justice David Wecht said in his majority opinion, but “simply are the next best thing.”

Full Article: Pa. Supreme Court sanctions Fulton County over voting machines

Pennsylvania judge dismisses latest GOP mail ballot lawsuit | Marc Levy/Associated Press

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee that had sought to prevent counties from helping voters ensure their ballots count by fixing minor, technical deficiencies on mail-in ballot envelopes. The judge said county courts, not a statewide court, have jurisdiction. The lawsuit, filed in the statewide Commonwealth Court, had argued that state law prevents what is known as “ballot curing” and, as a result, must be barred by the court. But Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler agreed with lawyers for the state’s Democratic administration and ruled that county courts have jurisdiction in the matter, not a state court, because counties have the authority under state law to make rules, regulations and instructions necessary to run an election. Ballot curing has been practiced primarily by Democratic-leaning counties in Pennsylvania. It includes notifying voters that they forgot to do things like date or sign their ballot envelope and gives them the opportunity to come into a county office and fix it before polls close.

Full Article: Pennsylvania judge dismisses latest GOP mail ballot lawsuit | AP News

Pennsylvania judge gets more arguments on whether public can see 2020 election ballot images | John Beauge/PennLive

It would be absurd to conclude the General Assembly wanted images of mail-in and absentee ballots made public but not those cast in person. That was the argument put forward Tuesday by Jeffrey J. Stroehmann in a brief filed in Lycoming County court in support of evidence presented at a Feb. 21 hearing. Judge Eric R. Linhardt, who is reviewing the images from the 2020 general election that Stroehmann wants made public, had given him and the county’s Office of Voter Services the opportunity to submit briefs before he makes a decision. Stroehmann, who chaired President Trump’s 2020 campaign in the county and attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., contends the images he seeks are public under the Election Code and the Right-to-Know Law.

Full Article: Pa. judge gets more arguments on whether public can see 2020 election ballot images – pennlive.com

Pennsylvania: Paper ballots provided for May Primary in Luzerne County | Andy Mehalshick/Eyewitness News

Electronic voting machines are out and paper ballot voting is in, at least for now as voters in Luzerne County will see some big changes when they head to their polling places for the May Primary Election. They will no longer cast votes on electronic voting machines. Luzerne County Election Officials told I-Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick they know they have to regain the trust of the voters, and they believe that the use of paper ballots in the upcoming election will be a step in the right direction in making that happen. Voters in Luzerne County will not be using the familiar electronic voting machines, sometimes called ‘Electronic Ballot Markers,’ in the May Primary Election. “We will have the election poll books set up for voters to sign in they will vote by paper ballot. So they’ll be given their ballot behind a privacy screen they will cast their vote and then scan it into our scanning machines before they leave,” said Jennifer Pecora, Division Head of Administrative Services.

Full Article: Paper ballots provided for May Primary in Luzerne County | Eyewitness News

Pennsylvania: Luzerne County voters may be using paper ballots at polls on May 16 | Jennifer Learn-Andes/Times Leader

Luzerne County voters may be selecting their candidates on paper ballots instead of electronic ballot marking devices at polling places in the May 16 primary election, officials said Monday. Election Director Eryn Harvey presented the plan to the county’s five-citizen Election Board, saying paper ballots were successfully used during a Jan. 31 state senate special election impacting 18 municipalities. The election bureau received a significant level of positive feedback from both voters and poll workers, she said. After marking their candidate choice, special election voters had to feed their paper ballot into a tabulator/scanner for the vote to be cast. With the ballot marking devices, voters pick their candidates on a computer screen and then print out the resulting ballot, which they must review and feed into the tabulator/scanner. While each of the 186 precincts must still have a ballot marking device available for those with disabilities in the primary, Harvey said the plan she is proposing would reduce the county’s expense for Dominion Voting Systems Inc. to bring a team of 10 or so representatives here for two weeks to program and test all of the approximately 700 ballot marking devices.

Full Article: Luzerne County voters may be using paper ballots at polls on May 16 | The Sunday Dispatch

Pennsylvania court offers conflicting opinions on requirements for fraud evidence in recount petitions | Carter Walker/Votebeat Pennsylvania

Two Pennsylvania appellate judges have offered conflicting rulings on whether evidence of fraud is needed to request a recount. Such recount petitions have become an increasingly common tool for those seeking to question election results, leading to delays in certification and fresh doubts about the integrity of the elections. In the past month, one Commonwealth Court judge ruled that petitioners must either provide evidence of election malfeasance or file recount requests in every precinct where an election occurred, while another judge ruled in a separate case that recount petitioners do not need evidence. The confusion stems from two seemingly contradictory sections of the state law. Election officials and petitioners hope that the state Supreme Court will take up the issue to provide clarity.

Full Article: Pennsylvania court has conflicting opinions on fraud evidence in recount petitions – Votebeat Pennsylvania – Nonpartisan local reporting on elections and voting

Unequal Pennsylvania election policies disenfranchised voters in 2022 | arter Walker and Kate Huangpu/Votebeat and SpotlightPA

Pennsylvania voters did not have equal opportunities to cast or correct their ballots during the November 2022 election, the latter producing a disparity that disenfranchised hundreds of voters, a Spotlight PA and Votebeat analysis has found. As part of a first-of-its-kind review, the news organizations contacted election officials in all 67 counties about policies regarding drop boxes and mail ballots that had disqualifying technical errors. The outlets focused on how counties treat mail ballots, as state law is silent on logistical details that directly impact how Pennsylvanians can vote and whether a person’s vote counts. Spotlight PA and Votebeat also sought to understand the access voters have to physical polling places and to minutes of meetings held by county election boards that make critical policy decisions such as which ballots get counted and who gets a chance to fix their ballot.

Full Article: Unequal Pennsylvania election policies disenfranchised voters in 2022 – Votebeat Pennsylvania – Nonpartisan local reporting on elections and voting

Pennsylvania Court won’t force release of election records | Marc Levy/Associated Press

A Pennsylvania appellate court said Thursday that it will not order Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration to produce records on voters and election systems sought by Republican lawmakers in a quest inspired by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The decision by the Commonwealth Court came a year-and-a-half after a Republican-controlled state Senate Committee voted to issue a subpoena seeking detailed state election records. Those records include information that Democratic lawmakers and the state attorney general’s office said were protected by privacy laws, including the driver’s license numbers and last four digits of their Social Security number of 9 million registered voters, as well as details about election systems. The court said that the Senate committee voted to issue the subpoena under its own internal rules and can enforce it under the state’s contempt laws. But that process, it said, does not involve seeking a court order to enforce it. “The Senate Committee has chosen to seek the election-related materials by legislative subpoena, and it is bound by that choice,” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote in the 21-page decision.

Full Article: Court won’t force Pennsylvania to release election records | AP News

Pennsylvania voting officials are still fighting election deniers | Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

It’s been 27 months since President Biden won the 2020 election. But that election continues to haunt officials in the Philadelphia suburb of Delaware County, Pa., who are still dealing with lawsuits alleging election fraud, despite no substantial evidence, and ongoing criticism from some local residents during public meetings. For William Martin, the county’s solicitor, the level of frustration hit a breaking point last month during a county council meeting. “I am profoundly offended to listen to baseless allegations of fraud against me and against other county workers,” Martin said after sitting through another round of public comments. “It’s time to put up or shut up. If you think there is fraud, sue me. Sue me! Sue me personally. Because then when it gets thrown out, I’ll sue you for abuse of process. Sue me!” Many other local officials in Pennsylvania are still grappling with the aftermath of the 2020 election. More recent political contests in that swing state have become a hotbed for election deniers and misinformation. And election watchers are concerned about how that could spill over into upcoming elections, including next year’s presidential race.

Full Article: Election misinformation continues to roil Pennsylvania : NPR

Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion opens the door for a patchwork of county policies on wrongly dated ballots | Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has once again waded into the protracted legal battle over whether mail ballots missing a date or with the wrong date should be thrown out. But while a series of opinions the justices issued Wednesday offered new clarity, they also opened the door to fresh confusion and the almost certain prospect of counties developing a patchwork of different policies over what exactly constitutes a correct date. The ruling follows an order the court issued last fall instructing counties to set aside all undated and wrongly dated ballots for last November’s midterm. It did not issue opinions explaining the decision at the time or providing guidance to counties going forward. The question of how to handle dates on mail ballots — state law requires voters to handwrite a date on the outer envelope — had been one of the most hotly contested legal and political fights in recent elections. In a tense status quo before last fall’s order, some counties had accepted undated ballots or ballots with any date, such as voters’ birth dates, saying it was unfair to disqualify ballots from legal voters simply because they had made a mistake.

Full Article: Undated Pa. mail ballots: State Supreme Court opinions open door to confusion, policy patchwork

Pennsylvania: After years of troubleshooting, Philadelphia will use electronic poll books in this year’s primary election | Brian A. Saunders/PhillyVoice

This year, Philadelphia voters will choose a new mayor. When they head to the polls in May’s primary election, they’ll see something else new: updated technology at their polling places. After almost four years of troubleshooting, city commissioners say poll workers will begin using electronic poll books, eliminating the paper stacks of information workers have long used to check in voters. Many states have implemented electronic poll books to provide checks and balances for human error and speed up the check-in process for voters. Over 20 states currently use the software in some capacity, and six use them statewide, Pew reports. “I just think that the electronic poll books are going to revolutionize the way Philadelphians vote in person,” City Commissioner Lisa Deeley told KYW Newsradio. “It’ll streamline the process, it will be more efficient and it’ll be a much better day for the board workers.”

Full Article: Philadelphia will use electronic poll books in upcoming primary election | PhillyVoice

Pennsylvania: Driven by Election Deniers, Hand Recount of 2020 Election Results in Lycoming County Showed Little Change | Trip Gabriel/The New York Times

On the 797th day after the defeat of former President Donald J. Trump, a rural Pennsylvania county on Monday began a recount of ballots from Election Day 2020. Under pressure from conspiracy theorists and election deniers, 28 employees of Lycoming County counted — by hand — nearly 60,000 ballots. It took three days and an estimated 560 work hours, as the vote-counters ticked through paper ballots at long rows of tables in the county elections department in Williamsport, a place used to a different sort of nail-biter as the home of the Little League World Series. The results of Lycoming County’s hand recount — like earlier recounts of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona — revealed no evidence of fraud. The numbers reported more than two years ago were nearly identical to the numbers reported on Thursday. Mr. Trump ended up with seven fewer votes than were recorded on voting machines in 2020. Joseph R. Biden Jr. had 15 fewer votes. Overall, Mr. Trump gained eight votes against his rival. The former president, who easily carried deep-red Lycoming County in 2020, carried it once again with 69.98 percent of the vote — gaining one one-hundredth of a point in the recount.

ull Article: Hand Recount of 2020 Election Results in Lycoming County Showed Little Change – The New York Times

Pennsylvania: 2020 Lycoming County election recount completed | Pat Crossley/Williamsport Sun-Gazette

It is done. Over two years after the 2020 presidential election, the final batch of ballots were counted again, this time by hand, early Wednesday afternoon. There were 59,481 ballots within the official results from the election that were counted, according to Forrest Lehman, director of Voter Services. “That’s how many we knew going into this that we needed to look at. We have one batch still out that is being hopefully finalized right now,” Lehman said, speaking in the nearly empty room that since Monday had been the site where about 24 people paired off and meticulously tabulating votes for the presidential and auditor general races in an election that was conducted in 2020. “It took a little over two days to get through the batches once, and then the additional time was spent today, Wednesday, (going) back through some of the batches a second time because the first time that they were looked at; we had some number discrepancies…, We kind of held onto those and then decided we were going to go back and look at them again at the end. So, that’s what we did,” he added.

Full Article: 2020 Lycoming County election recount completed | News, Sports, Jobs – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Pennsylvania: Recount requests delay election certification | Mark Scolforo and Brooke Schultz/Associated Press

Five weeks after Election Day, winning candidates in Pennsylvania from governor to Congress are waiting for their victories to become official. An effort that appears to be at least partially coordinated among conservatives has inundated counties with ballot recount requests even though no races are close enough to require a recount and there has been no evidence of any potential problems. The attempt to delay certification could foreshadow a potential strategy for the 2024 presidential election, if the results don’t go the way disaffected voters want in one of the nation’s most closely contested states. Recounts have been sought in 172 voting precincts across 40% of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. That led to nine counties missing their Nov. 29 certification deadline, though all but one has since certified. The Pennsylvania Department of State, in a response to The Associated Press on Wednesday, gave no date for certifying the results statewide but said it planned to comply with a request from the clerk of the U.S. House to send certification documents to Congress by mid-December. Wednesday was Dec. 14.

Full Article: Recount requests delay Pennsylvania election certification | AP News

Pennsylvania county to begin hand recount of 2020 votes for president, state auditor general on Jan. 9 | John Beauge/PennLive

The hand recount of the 2020 general election ballots for president and state auditor general in Lycoming County is to begin Jan. 9. The county Board of Elections in October voted 2-1 to do the recount of ballots for president and one statewide office to prove the electronic tabulation is accurate and to restore vote confidence. Approximately 5,000, people, many of whom identified themselves with the conservative Patriots group, sought a recount even though President Trump outpolled Joe Biden in the county, 41,462 to 16,971. Nearly 60,000 ballots will be counted by up to 40 county employees who will be pulled off their normal jobs. They first will be trained by elections director Forest Lehman. The cost of the recount has not been determined, Commissioner Scott L. Metzger said Wednesday. No one extra is being hired, he said. It is no different than taking county employees off their regular jobs to assist after an election, he said.

Full Article: Pa. county to begin hand recount of 2020 votes for president, state auditor general on Jan. 9 – pennlive.com

Pennsylvania: Inside the post-election review designed to give voters more confidence in the results | Carter Walker/Pennsylvania Capital-Star

A person approaches the table and picks up a 10-sided die. She rolls. Four. The next roller in line takes her turn. Seven. The unusual die, shaped like an elongated diamond, may seem a curiosity except to those who use it most: “board gamers and elections officials,” Jonathan Marks, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of state, said. But the rollers, employees of the Pennsylvania Department of State, are not casting their dice to determine their next move in Dungeons & Dragons. Instead, they are generating a long, random number that will determine the course of Pennsylvania’s 2022 risk-limiting audit. A risk-limiting audit is a type of post-election review designed to give statistical confidence that an election outcome was accurate. This year is the first when all 67 counties are required to participate in one of these audits before certifying their election results. The math used to conduct the audit is available to the public, though practitioners agree it is hard to understand. Elections officials who have used it said the audit took time to understand but they now have confidence in it, and they hope it will give the public more confidence as well that election outcomes are accurate.

Full Article: Inside the post-election review designed to give Pa. voters more confidence in the results – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Pennsylvania judge backs penalties against county in voting machine case | Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

A Pennsylvania judge has recommended the state’s high court impose civil contempt penalties against a Republican-majority county government that this summer secretly allowed a third party to copy data from voting machines used in the 2020 election lost by former President Donald Trump. Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer’s 77-page report issued late Friday said the July inspection and copying of computer data from machines rented by Fulton County was a willful violation of a court order designed to prevent evidence from being spoiled. She recommended that the justices find that the county, based on the actions of Republican Commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch, “engaged in vexatious, obdurate, and bad faith conduct” in their lawsuit against the Department of State over whether a 2021 inspection by another outside group meant the machines could no longer be used. Cohn Jubelirer, an elected Republican, recommended that the county be ordered to pay some of the state’s legal fees and that the Dominion Voting Systems Inc. machines in question be turned over to a third party for safekeeping at the county’s expense.

Full Article: Judge backs penalties against county in voting machine case | AP News

Pennsylvania: How ten-sided dice play into state’s post-election audit | Justin Sweitzer/City & State

On Thursday, officials at the Pennsylvania Department of State rolled the dice. Literally. To kick off the state’s post-election audit of this month’s race for governor, department staff rolled 20 ten-sided dice to create a “seed number” used to randomly select batches of ballots to audit. That seed number will then be entered into Arlo, an audit software tool used to select random batches of ballots for auditors in each county to manually review. The auditors will then conduct a hand tally of the votes cast for governor in each batch, according to Department of State officials. The department will then compile the results of the audit and determine whether the statistical criteria needed to confirm the election results has been met. The audit, known as a risk-limiting audit or RLA, involves auditing a randomly-selected batch of ballots to confirm the outcome of the election. The number of ballots audited depends on how wide the margin was in a particular race.

Full Article: How ten-sided dice play into Pennsylvania’s post-election audit – City & State Pennsylvania

Most Pennsylvania counties blaze through ballots under Act 88’s continuous-count rule | Carter Walker/Votebeat

Despite some initial concerns with a new requirement that most Pennsylvania counties tally their mail-in ballots nonstop, election workers plowed through the job Tuesday and Wednesday while reporting no major problems. Passed by the Legislature late last summer, Act 88 offered grants to counties for election administration costs. But there was a catch: Counties that took the money could not stop counting mail ballots until every one had been tallied. All but four of the state’s 67 counties took the state up on the offer. Many counties already had some experience with nonstop counting from past elections. But the legal requirement adds new pressure and prompted counties to develop new processes to ensure they comply with it, underscoring all the ways in which election officials in the state are still adjusting to manage the relatively new mail-in voting system there. “We have done that in the past. That’s not new to us,” said Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, chair of the Lancaster County Board of Elections.

Full Article: Act 88 forced Pennsylvania counties to count ballots nonstop. Here’s how they did it. – Votebeat Pennsylvania – Nonpartisan local reporting on elections and voting

Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarifies order on mail ballots as another lawsuit filed | Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

The scramble to figure out which Pennsylvania mail ballots to count and reject based on handwritten dates continued Saturday. A state Supreme Court order Tuesday — that many had earlier hoped would settle the matter for this election — directed counties to reject mail ballots missing those dates as well as those where the voter put a wrong date on their ballot. But the decision has since stirred uncertainty among elections administrators over what exactly constitutes an incorrect date and drawn new litigation from advocates who say rejecting ballots over what amounts to a mistake threatens to potentially disenfranchise thousands of legal voters. On Saturday, the state Supreme Court unexpectedly issued an additional order clarifying its definition: Mail-in ballots are to be rejected in this election if the handwritten dates fall before Sept. 19, 2022, or after Nov. 8 (Election Day), and absentee ballots are to be rejected if they are dated before Aug. 30, 2022, or after Nov. 8. Absentee and mail-in ballots are essentially the same, but under state law “absentee ballots” are for voters who are unable to make it to their polling places on Election Day, while “mail-in ballots” are for anyone else who chooses to vote by mail. Sept. 19 is the start of the state’s 50-day mail voting window, when counties can begin to print and send mail-in and absentee ballots. Counties treat absentee and mail-in ballots the same way and send them out at the same time.

Full Article: Pa. Supreme Court clarifies order on mail ballots as another lawsuit filed

Pennsylvania has seen unSusual threat levels against poll workers: FBI | Siafa Lewis/CBS

As Election Day nears, officials in Philadelphia are reminding everyone that voter intimidation and harassment is illegal. Pennsylvania is one of seven states the FBI has identified as having seen unusual threat levels against poll workers. That has led to a shortage of poll workers and resulted in Philadelphia increasing pay for poll workers. Additionally, there are concerns about voter intimidation at polling places and officials are trying to get ahead of it all. “Sometimes with extremists, it’s necessary to knock on their foreheads early, and that’s what we’re doing now,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “We’re making sure you have the information you need so you do not get yourself into a pair of handcuffs, because believe me, if you try to interfere with or erase the votes of Philadelphians, that’s exactly where you’re going to be.” Krasner also warned that they have handcuffs, jail cells and Philadelphia juries ready for anyone who breaks the law. “Rest assured Philadelphians, it will be safe for you to vote the same as it’s always been,” City commissioner Omar Sabir said.

Full Article: Pa. has seen unusual threat levels against poll workers: FBI – CBS Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Supreme Court says undated mail ballots should be segregated, not counted | Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania counties must segregate and not count mail ballots with missing or incorrect dates, the state Supreme Court said Tuesday in a ruling that could affect thousands of votes in November’s midterm elections. The order came as the result of a 3-3 deadlock on the court over whether rejecting such ballots — which have been at the center of an ongoing political and legal fight between Democrats and Republicans — violates federal civil rights law. Three of the justices said throwing out the ballots of otherwise qualified voters over a missing or incorrect date would improperly exclude legal votes. Three others disagreed. The seventh spot on the court remains vacant after the death of former Chief Justice Max Baer. “We hereby direct that the Pennsylvania county boards of elections segregate and preserve any ballots contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes,” the court said in its brief order, which was not immediately accompanied by any opinions explaining the justices’ reasoning. The order said only that opinions would be released later.

Full Article: Pa. Supreme Court says undated mail ballots should be segregated, not counted

Pennsylvania counties can help voters fix mail ballot errors after state Supreme Court deadlocks on the issue | eremy Roebuck and Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for counties to help voters fix errors like missing signatures on mail ballots before Election Day. A lower court last month denied an attempt to block counties from helping voters “cure” their ballot errors. The state Supreme Court on Friday said it had deadlocked on the appeal of that decision, which means the lower court decision is automatically affirmed. The high court normally has seven members, but Chief Justice Max Baer died last month. Of the remaining six members, Justices Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty, and David Wecht said they agreed with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s decision that allowed ballot curing to continue. Chief Justice Debra Todd and Justices Sallie Updyke Mundy and Kevin Brobson said they would have reversed it. The three-sentence order dealt a defeat to the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups, which had filed the appeal in one of the latest fronts in the state’s contentious partisan battle over which ballots should be counted.

Full Article: Pa. counties can help voters fix mail ballot errors after state Supreme Court deadlocks on the issue

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia might scale back a process for catching double votes — because of GOP ‘election integrity’ rules | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia elections officials are poised to remove or significantly scale back a procedure meant to catch double votes. Ironically, it’s because of rules Republicans imposed on “election integrity grants.” Otherwise, the city risks losing millions of dollars. The procedure, known as poll book reconciliation, compares mail ballots with poll books from Election Day. If a person is listed in the poll books as voting in person but the city also receives a mail ballot from the same voter, the mail ballot is rejected to ensure only one vote per person counts. The process caught dozens of accidental double votes in 2020, but none in the last three elections. But poll book reconciliation temporarily stops the vote count, sometimes for a day or more. And that appears to conflict with a new state law known as Act 88, which provides state election funding with conditions, including that counting “continue without interruption.” Now local officials have to decide whether to risk millions of dollars by keeping the procedure in place to catch double votes — or expose anew a vulnerability that was addressed in previous elections.

Full Article: Philadelphia catches double votes. Republican ‘election integrity’ rules make it harder.

Pennsylvania undated mail ballots likely to get new challenges after Supreme Court ruling | Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday invalidated a lower-court decision that had allowed undated mail ballots to be counted in Pennsylvania, injecting new uncertainty into election rules that could affect thousands of votes next month. The order is almost certain to prompt new lawsuits over an issue that has become a consistent political and legal fight over the last two years, and it immediately ignited a new round of disputes over what the decision meant. Republicans have sought to throw out undated mail ballots that arrive on time but without a handwritten date on their outer envelopes as required by state law. Democrats have fought to count them. But Tuesday’s decision didn’t address the substance of that debate. It instead vacated a May decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on procedural grounds, leaving unresolved the central question of whether elections officials should count undated ballots. Amid that uncertainty, both sides rushed to interpret the ruling’s practical effects. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections as part of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, said it expects counties to count undated ballots, citing a series of state court rulings earlier this year. Republicans said counties should reject undated ballots, citing state election law and a differing set of state court rulings. What is an ‘undated’ mail ballot?

Full Article: Pa. undated mail ballots likely to get new challenges after Supreme Court ruling

Pennsylvania: Unresolved areas in mail voting law likely to spur fresh confusion, legal challenges | Stephen Caruso and Katie Meyer/WITF

As millions of Pennsylvanians once again go to the polls this November, some key questions on mail ballots remain unsettled, opening the door for more legal action and public confusion after the upcoming gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. In a recent live event with Spotlight PA, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman stressed that these issues will not affect the accuracy of the vote. But rules on key voting mechanics such as drop boxes or a chance for voters to fix a ballot error could vary by county. As such, people who plan to vote by mail should brush up on local rules to ensure there aren’t any issues with their ballots, Chapman said. “I really want people to make a plan to vote,” she said. “Think about it. Do you want to vote by mail?” Elections in Pennsylvania have become highly political, and the state election law has some gray areas. The patchwork of mail voting rules largely stems from 2019, when the legislature and governor passed a bipartisan overhaul of the commonwealth’s election law and allowed no-excuse mail voting for the first time.

Full Article: Unresolved areas in Pennsylvania mail voting law likely to spur fresh confusion, legal challenges | WITF

Pennsylvania counties can help voters fix problems with their mail ballots, state court rules | Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck/Phildelphia Inquirer

A state judge cleared the way Thursday for Pennsylvania counties to continue helping voters correct small mistakes on their submitted mail ballots, saying nothing in the law prohibits the practice. The decision was a loss, at least temporarily, for Republicans who have tried in recent years to stop local elections officials from offering voters the opportunity to fix errors like missing signatures that would otherwise cause their ballots to be thrown out. “Petitioners have not proven that there is a clear violation of the Election Code or the law interpreting the Election Code,” Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler wrote in her 58-page opinion. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by the Republican National Committee, which had asked the judge to bar the practice — known as “ballot curing” — before the November election. They cited the fact that there is no consistent curing policy across the state, and that some counties allow voters to fix errors while others do not.

Full Article: Pennsylvania counties can help voters fix problems with their mail ballots, state court rules