Politics

Secrecy Requirement Could See 100,000 Pennsylvania Ballots Disqualified, Dem Official Says

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Andrew Trunsky Elections Reporter
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As many as 100,000 Pennsylvania voters could have their ballots discarded in November due to a state law that requires absentee ballots to be returned inside a secrecy sleeve, according to a Democratic official on the Philadelphia city commission.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered election officials to discard “naked ballots” in a decision issued last week, a move that could result in tens of thousands of ballots disqualified in a critical battleground state, City Commissioner Lisa Deeley wrote in a letter to Republican state legislators.

In a year where an unprecedented amount of voters are opting to vote absentee, the decision could ultimately decide who wins the state’s 20 electoral votes and possibly the entire election, Deeley argued.

Pennsylvania, like 16 other states, uses a two-envelope system for absentee voters: after a ballot is filled, it is placed inside a secrecy sleeve designed to ensure anonymity, then placed inside an additional envelope before it is mailed.

Though most Pennsylvania counties counted ballots that were missing their secrecy sleeves during the state’s June primary, they did not track how many naked ballots there were, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. As a result, it’s unclear how many of them may appear in November, especially given the state’s expansions to mail-in voting. (RELATED: Democrats Build A Big Lead Regarding Early Voting)

In a letter addressed to the Republican leaders of Pennsylvania’s state legislature urging them to repeal the law, Deeley argued that the court’s decision could be “the subject of significant post-election legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000.” (RELATED: Here’s Where The Presidential Race Stands In The Six Most Competitive States)

During the state’s 2019 general election, 3,086 absentee ballots were mailed, of which 6.4% were naked, the letter says. If that rate was carried to the 2020 primary, 11,211 ballots would have been without their secrecy sleeve, according to the letter.

“Under the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling, that would amount to 11,211 votes that would not have been counted,” Deeley argued, citing the statistic as a low estimate.

Extrapolating to the general election, “30,000 to 40,000 ballots could likely be thrown out in Philadelphia alone,” meaning that “over 100,000 votes statewide” risk being discarded as well.

“The secrecy envelope is not needed, it is a vestige of the past,” Deeley wrote, calling them a “hold over from when Pennsylvania counted absentee ballots at polling places.”

“Now they are counted centrally, through an industrialized process,” ensuring that “there is no opportunity to stop, or even slow down, and identify how an individual voted.” (RELATED: Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court Extends The State’s Mail-In Ballot Deadline)

Despite Deeley’s plea, the state’s GOP legislature has not signaled that it will change the law.

“This is not a partisan issue. We are talking about the voting rights of our constituents, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, or independents, whose ballots will be needlessly set aside.”

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