Pennsylvania court tosses state's mail voting law

Jane C. Timm
A voter arrives to drop off he ballot during early voting in Allentown, Pennsylvania on October 29, 2020.
Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

A Pennsylvania court struck down the state's mail voting law on Friday morning, saying that voters must amend the state constitution before such legislation is legal.

"No-excuse mail-in voting makes the exercise of the franchise more convenient and has been used four times in the history of Pennsylvania," Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote in a Friday ruling. "If presented to the people, a constitutional amendment to end the Article VII, Section 1 requirement of in-person voting is likely to be adopted. But a constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation authorizing no-excuse mail-in voting can 'be placed upon our statute books'."

The ruling can be appealed to a higher court.

Pennsylvania expanded mail voting with a 2019 law that was heralded as a bipartisan compromise as it was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. It later became a target for Republican criticism when then-President Donald Trump falsely criticized mail voting as a source of widespread fraud.

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In August 2021, 14 Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives filed suit against the state's mail voting law alleging it unconstitutional. The Democratic National Committee and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, as well as several GOP county committees, intervened to defend the law with the state.

In 2020, when congregating at the polls posed a health risk due to the pandemic, mail voting surged in popularity; according to NBC News, more than 2.6 million Pennsylvania voters cast a mail or early in-person ballot.

The Democratic National Committee and the Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of State's office did not respond immediately to requests for comment.