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Commonwealth Court Upholds Act 77, Again

Mail Ballot Declaration

Pennsylvania’s much-maligned mail ballot law known as Act 77 has withstood its latest legal challenge.

In a lawsuit filed in 2022, 14 current and former Republican state lawmakers asked that the state’s Commonwealth Court to invalidate the law based upon the nonseverability provision of the Act. The petitioners claimed that Ritter v. Migliori and/or Champman v. Berks County Board of Elections triggered the provision that says it is “void” if any of its requirements are struck down in court.

Their argument was that those court rulings refused to enforce the requirement that a voter write a date on the outer envelope of their mail-in ballot if the ballot is to be counted.

Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer ruled in dismissing the suit that the “interpretations did not invalidate the Dating Provisions, as neither opinion struck the Dating Provisions from the Election Code or held that electors cannot or should not handwrite a date on the declaration in accordance with those provisions. Even under these interpretations, the Dating Provisions remain part of the Election Code and continue to instruct electors to date the declaration on the return mailing envelope, which, as history has shown, a majority of electors will do.”

Judge Patricia McCullough wrote in her concurring opinion that “the right of suffrage is a fundamental constitutional right as recognized by the Election Code. The citizens of Pennsylvania are entitled to elections that are fair and orderly and to be fully informed of the electoral process. In light of current precedent, I am constrained to concur with the Majority in the regards noted. The remaining state of flux confronting Pennsylvania citizens requires immediate establishment of clear direction in conformance with constitutional standards.”

In a post-ruling interviewGreg Teufel, the lawyer for the 14 Republican lawmakers, said he expects to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Disagreeing his Jubelirer, McCullough and the court, Teufel said “They’re sidestepping a critical issue, just pretending they don’t see it.”


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