Mail-in voting sparks debate in PA
The presidential election is less than eight weeks away and all eyes are on battleground states like Pennsylvania. Board of Elections officials there are anticipating at least 50 percent of voters will vote by mail.
A local lawmaker in western Pennsylvania wants voters in the key battleground state to know the “naked truth” about mail-in voting.
Bethany Hallam, an Allegheny County councilwoman, and other local elected officials stripped down to make sure Pennsylvania voters who cast their ballots by mail place them in the mandatory secrecy envelope. They stressed: Don't send a “naked ballot,” which would invalidate a vote.
In a viral ad campaign, the female lawmakers are topless with graphics of mail-in ballots “tastefully draped across their chests."
“Desperate times call for desperate measures!” Hallum tweeted. “So your favorite elected officials got naked so that you remember to make sure that your mail-in ballot is NOT submitted without its secrecy envelope!! #nonakedballots #dressyourballot”
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT EXTENDS STATE MAIL BALLOT DEADLINE TO 3 DAYS AFTER ELECTION
The campaign came about after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled mail-in ballots had to be rejected if not enclosed in the proper envelope.
According to some estimates, more than 100,000 mail-in ballots cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election in the state could be tossed out because they were not sent in the proper envelope.
Fueled by concerns over the pandemic, more than 3 million voters in Pennsylvania are expected to cast ballots by mail in the Nov. 3 election. That’s more than 10 times as many mail voters than in the 2016 presidential election, when Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by slightly more than 44,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point.
Mail-in voting, especially in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, has become a major issue leading up to the election. President Trump argued that the practice is steeped in voter fraud, despite scant evidence to support the claim.
Democrats have cited studies saying voter fraud via mail is relatively rare in the U.S., and noted that Trump and many on the right have voted via mail with absentee ballots – ballots a voter requests through a process before mailing in their vote. But universal mail-in voting has never been tried on the scale expected this fall, with the aim of keeping voters safe from the coronavirus.
The battle over the vote in Pennsylvania took a new turn last week when the state’s Supreme Court dealt a blow to Republicans in the legal fight over the deadline for mailed ballots.
The court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, rejected without comment a request by Republicans to put on hold its decision to extend the deadline for receiving and counting mail-in ballots.
The divided court earlier this month granted the Democratic Party’s request to order an extension of Pennsylvania’s Election Day deadline to count mailed ballots.
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The court said ballots must be postmarked by the time polls close and received by county election boards at 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, three days after the Nov. 3 election.
It cited warnings of the prospect of Postal Service delays in invalidating huge numbers of ballots and demand for mailed ballots during the coronavirus pandemic to invoke the power, used previously by the state’s courts, to extend election deadlines during a disaster emergency.
Ballots can be counted if they lack a postmark, a legible postmark or some other proof of mailing unless a “preponderance of the evidence” shows it was mailed after Election Day, the court said.
Republicans opposed changing the deadline, as well as counting ballots without legible postmarks to prove they were mailed before polls closed. They say the ruling violates federal law that sets Election Day as the first Tuesday in November and exceeded the court’s constitutional authority.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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