Politics

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Mail-In Ballot Deadline Extended, Drop Boxes OK

(Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday to extend Pennsylvania’s Election Day deadline to count mail-in ballots for three days after Nov. 3.

“We additionally conclude that voters’ rights are better protected by addressing the impending crisis at this point in the election cycle on a statewide basis rather than allowing the chaos to brew, creating voter confusion regarding whether extensions will be granted, for how long, and in what counties,” the decision read.

The decision comes after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state Supreme Court to extend the mail-in ballot deadline, citing an increase in mail-in voting and USPS delivery times.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 21: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf addresses supporters before former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for statewide Democratic candidates on September 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Midterm election day is November 6th. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 21: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf addresses supporters before former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for statewide Democratic candidates on September 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Midterm election day is November 6th. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Mail-in ballots postmarked by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day will be counted up to Nov. 6, the court decided, noting an increase in mail-in ballots could slow USPS delivery standards and disenfranchise voters. (RELATED: USPS Says Pennsylvania Ballots May Be Delivered Late, Voters Request Extension)

However, the court also notes that ballots received within the three day period that “lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible” will be “presumed to have been mailed by Election Day” unless proven otherwise.

The ruling also allows election officials to use drop boxes to collect votes from voters who do not want to mail their ballots back in.

Chief Justice Saylor dissented with the majority on allowing the counting of unmarked ballots will create “confusion.”

“Particularly in combination with the allowance of drop boxes, this substantially increases the likelihood of confusion, as well as the possibility that votes will be cast after 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.”

The court denied three parts of the lawsuit, ruling election boards are not required to implement any procedure “to cure” mail-in and absentee ballots that were filled out incorrectly or incompletely resulting in their rejection. The court ruled it’s up to the legislature to create procedures for correcting any ballots.

They also ruled ballots must use both inner and outer mail envelopes to ensure security of the vote and that poll watchers must live in the county in which they are presiding over.