Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law – Act 77 – has been upheld by the state’s Supreme Court, allowing all voters to cast ballots by mail in November and for other future elections.
In Tuesday’s 5-2 decision, the Democratic-majority court overturned the Commonwealth Court’s ruling from January that found Act 77 to be in violation of the state’s constitution.
“We reiterate that our General Assembly is endowed with great legislative power, subject only to express restrictions in the Constitution,” Justice Christine Donohue wrote for the majority. “We find no restriction in our Constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting.”
Joining Donohue in the majority were Chief Justice Max Baer and Justices Debra Todd, Kevin Dougherty and David Wecht. All five are Democrats. Republicans Sallie Mundy and Kevin Brobson wrote dissenting opinions.
“This is a great day for Pennsylvania voters,” said political law attorney Adam Bonin. “It’s time for Harrisburg Republicans to finally come to the table to make the voting and vote counting experience better.”
The law was originally part of bipartisan negotiations between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly and was adopted in November 2019. Following the 2020 presidential election, numerous GOP members, including Republican candidate for governor Doug Mastriano, criticized the legislation.
“Following its passage in 2019, Act 77 was unconstitutionally rewritten by the Democrat majority Supreme Court, Governor Wolf, and Secretary of State (Kathy) Boockvar,” said Mastriano. “Those changes removed critical safeguards prior to the 2020 election.”
“Today’s court ruling definitively asserts that mail-in voting is a legal and constitutional method for Pennsylvania voters,” said Wolf in a statement. “By upholding the law, which the General Assembly approved in 2019 in a bipartisan manner, this ruling assures that mail-in voting remains in place and Pennsylvanians will be able to cast their ballot legally in person or by mail without any disruption or confusion.”
Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), chair of the House State Government Committee, said in a statement that “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of Act 77 of 2019 should not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched this court over the past few years. While some may celebrate this ruling and others denounce it, the reality is we still have election laws and processes that are failing our voters and election administrators. Until we update our voting laws, Pennsylvania will continue to have chaos in our elections.”
The lawsuit that was heard by the Supreme Court was brought in part by a group of PA House Republicans who voted to pass Act 77, including Reps. Robert Brooks (R-Westmoreland/Allegheny), Aaron Bernstine (R-Lawrence/Beaver), Donald “Bud” Cook (R-Washington/Fayette), Barbara Gleim (R-Cumberland), Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks), Mike Jones (R-York), Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland), David Maloney (R-Berks), Dan Moul (R-Adams), Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest), and Francis Ryan (R-Lebanon).
What They’re Saying
“With this ruling, the Court has provided certainty to voters – certainty that however people cast their vote, in person or by mail, it will be counted.”
– Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General
“I don’t know anyone who needs to hear this, but voting in Pennsylvania is safe, open, and secure.”
– John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
“Republican attempts to roll back bipartisan improvements in our election law – improvements that eased access and allowed for greater participation – have been thwarted. Mail-in voting is a safe and secure way that millions of Pennsylvanians have used to exercise their right to vote since the legislature passed the law in 2019. Looking ahead, I will continue to champion measures like the K. Leroy Irvis Voting Rights Protection Act, to further improve access and security, while restoring public faith in our election system and our local election officials.”
– Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware)
“Today’s PA Supreme Court ruling underscores the importance of the actions taken by the General Assembly to strengthen election integrity including banning third party funding from running Pennsylvania elections and constitutional amendments on voter ID, and post-election audits.”
– Erica Clayton Wright, Spokesperson, Senate Republican Caucus
“From the moment it was signed into law, Act 77 has been subjected to consistent legal challenges attempting to change the law’s provisions, including security features designed to protect the integrity of our elections. However, what is not in dispute are the many problems that resulted from the Pennsylvania Department of State’s unlawful interventions, and previous actions by this Supreme Court to interfere in our election process and security measures. It is clear that in order for all Pennsylvanians to have full faith in our election processes and outcomes, further changes to our election law must be made to ensure all appropriate safeguards and security measures are in place and enforced.”
– Bryan Cutler, Speaker of the PA House
“Pennsylvania Supreme Court REJECTS Republican attack on Act 77, the state’s election reform law that established no-excuse mail-in voting. Victory for voters of Pennsylvania!”
– Marc Elias, founder, Democracy Docket
“Today’s ruling is a victory for democracy. For decades, the state legislature expanded access to absentee voting without legal challenge. Just like the prior enlargements, the legislature’s 2019 expansion of vote-by-mail is constitutional, secure, and convenient for 21st century voters, who live busy and sometimes unpredictable lives. We are gratified that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the law. And we will remain vigilant to challenge any further attempts to limit Pennsylvania voters’ ability to cast their ballots.”
– Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania
“Act 77 of 2019 was passed with broad bipartisan support. Only now, based on unfounded allegations of mail-in fraud in the 2020 general election, do some politicians want to keep trying to take away what voters have embraced. Now, the state’s highest court has put its stamp of approval on this important law, too. It’s time for lawmakers to abandon policies the erect barriers to how elections are administered and how Pennsylvanians vote and instead put their energy behind proven changes that make elections more convenient and easier to access for all eligible Pennsylvania voters.”
– Maria del Carmen Gutierrez, Sr. Director of Membership for CASA.