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Pennsylvania Mail-In Ballot Ruling Could Cause 100,000 Ballots To Be Rejected, Official Warns


A Pennsylvania election official said Monday that the state’s recent ruling governing so-called “naked ballots”—mandating that any ballots that arrive without a proper envelope must be discounted—could cause more than 100,000 mail-in ballots to be rejected statewide and could swing the presidential election because of the Pennsylvania’s key role as a swing state.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling declared that mail-in ballots cannot be counted if they’re returned without a secrecy envelope, an extra envelope that the ballot goes in before it is placed in a larger mailing envelope.

The ruling was a win for the Trump campaign and Republican Party in their broader legal effort against mail-in voting rules, as they claim that ballots returned without the envelope will display personal voter information and be more susceptible to voter fraud.

In a letter to state legislative leaders, Philadelphia elections chief Lisa Deeley calculated that the ruling would likely result in 30,000 to 40,000 ballots getting rejected in Philadelphia alone—based on a 2019 election in which 6.4% of ballots were returned without the envelope—and potentially more than 100,000 statewide.

The high level of expected rejections may result in “electoral chaos” and a “significant post-election legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000,” Deeley warned.

Deeley argued that secrecy envelopes are a “vestige of the past” that will make counting ballots take twice as long, cost thousands of dollars and only serve to “disenfranchise” voters, calling on legislators to urgently pass legislation that would eliminate the envelopes.

Pennsylvania is expected to play a decisive role in determining the presidential winner—FiveThirtyEight projects there’s a 31% chance it will be the state that serves as the tipping-point for the election—and Donald Trump won the state by a margin of only 44,292 votes in 2016.

BIG NUMBER

16. That’s the number of states that are required to use secrecy envelopes for absentee ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while other states have different measures in place to ensure voters’ privacy as ballots are opened.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“I hope you consider this letter as me being a canary in the coalmine,” Deeley wrote, noting that the secrecy envelopes are “not a partisan issue.” “As public servants, we owe it to all citizens to avoid this situation, and the likely chaos that would come with it. Anyone who advocates doing nothing…in hopes that more Democratic ballots are thrown out than Republican ballots, is not being an effective policy maker.”

KEY BACKGROUND

The Pennsylvania lawsuit at the heart of Deeley’s letter is one of dozens of legal challenges nationwide targeting mail-in voting rules that the Trump campaign and RNC are involved with, as the RNC undertakes a $20 million legal effort challenging various election laws. GOP advisors are also anticipating a “weeks-long” legal fight in states after the election as votes are counted, the Washington Post reported in August. Along with the decision on secrecy envelopes, the recent Pennsylvania ruling also delivered a win to the GOP by prohibiting third parties from collecting and turning in mail-in ballots on behalf of others—a practice Trump and the GOP refer to as “ballot harvesting”—though the ruling also expanded voter access by extending the deadline by which ballots must be received




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