At the same time that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that mail ballots or absentee ballots must be properly dated, the Indiana County Commissioner, who serves as the county’s board of elections, decided that the Denied a motion to allow “repair” of envelopes that do not exist. Mail-in ballots by allowing voters to come and date their envelopes if desired.
The 2-to-1 margin came at a special Election Commission meeting scheduled after a discussion of the undated envelopes at the Election Commission’s latest regular meeting last week.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court unanimously ruled that votes from mail ballots or absentee ballots in which the return envelope did not have the correct handwritten date on it could not be counted, so the argument was raised. It may have ended in controversy in Harrisburg on Tuesday.
The court has directed the county board of elections to “separately store” ballots cast for next week’s gubernatorial, senate and state legislative elections.
Indiana County had already put those ballots aside.
Commissioner Robin A. Gorman said at a 16-minute Election Commission meeting on Tuesday, “Currently, our voter registration office, also guided by our state, is sending undated or unsigned mail. I am still withholding my vote.”
So Gorman and Commissioner R. Michael Keith voted against the idea put forward by Commissioner Shereen Hess. Gorman backed the motion before it was debated.
Hess had the support of two individuals present in the commissioner’s hearing room.
Homer Mayor Arlene Wanatski said, “I don’t see the relative relevance of claiming that anything mailed or posted (outer return envelope) for the election is dated.”
Governor Tom Wolfe’s “decision has been taken by the current administration,” and Indiana County Democratic Commission Vice Chair Lynn Alwine said the county should “consider not giving up the vote on expertise.” said.
Alwine hoped that eventually Indiana County would be able to allow “automatic registration for everyone and mail-in ballots for everyone.”
Hess emphasized that the motion to restore does not allow the ballot itself to be amended, and that the motion only pertains to the envelope on which the ballot is sent to the county elections office.
Before the news came out of Harrisburg, Hess said, based on various cases and arguments, “current guidance from the state is that undated (envelopes) should be counted.” .
As noted Tuesday in Indiana, officials in various counties said they were already putting undated ballots in separate piles in return envelopes in anticipation of the court’s ruling. may notify voters that the date is missing on their ballot so that they can go to the elections office to correct the date.
County Attorney Matthew T. Budash acknowledged conflicting arguments.
“We have guidance, but we also have legislation,” Budash said. “The state says one thing, the law says another.”
If the board votes to allow these ballot amendments, Gorman said, “our staff will be in a position to continue to be overwhelmed by callers concerned about ballot issues.” Stated.
“We are doing what we need to do as an elected board,” Gorman said.
Last month, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, Lee M. Chapman, said county election officials must count mail ballots arriving in external envelopes with inaccurate or non-existent handwritten dates, even though state law requires it. said there is
This follows a decision by the US Supreme Court to declare invalid the May decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit regarding mail-in ballots.
Circuit courts, including Pennsylvania, have said undated mail-in ballots required for return envelopes must count in the 2021 Pennsylvania judicial election.
Since the use of mail-in ballots was greatly expanded in Pennsylvania under state legislation passed in 2019, the status of ballots without properly dated envelopes has repeatedly litigated.
In the current case, state and national Republican organizations and several Republican voters bypassed the lower courts and sought immediate review by the Supreme Court. Individual voters were excluded from the proceedings by order of the High Court.
Last week, Pennsylvania State Department officials, led by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe, said state law from 1945 to 1968 told county election commissioners to withdraw mail-in ballots if the date on the envelope is later than Election Day. claimed to have instructed
But in 1968, state law was amended to remove “the requirement that a county cancel a ballot on the basis of the date on the ballot return envelope” from the election law section, they said. .
The date will not be used to verify whether the ballot was received in time for Election Day. This happens when the county stamps on arrival. There is also evidence that at least some counties in Pennsylvania consider any date acceptable, even one in the future.
The Republican litigants asked the judge to base the ruling on state law language that voters “complete, date, and sign a declaration printed on the outer envelope of the ballot.” Alternatively, they asked judges to separate ballots from undated or improperly dated return envelopes.
The court’s decision has reached the deadline for requesting an absentee or mail-in ballot. Pennsylvania counties reported receiving over 850,000 mail-in ballots out of nearly 1.4 million vote-by-mail ballots requested by voters. About 70% of the requests are from Democrats and about 20% from Republicans.
At a press conference in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Chapman said, “It’s time to return your vote-by-mail ballot to ensure it arrives by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
Chapman stressed that voters should read the instructions carefully before voting by mail. Follow the instructions on how to mark your selection. Seal the ballot in an inner confidential envelope marked “Official Election Ballot” to ensure that the envelope is not marked. Seal the confidential envelope in the addressed outer return envelope. Sign and date the declaration on the outer return envelope.
Hess was Second Vice President of the Pennsylvania County Commission and chairman of the Election Reform Commission.
In a news release about election protocols on Tuesday, CCAP director of media and public affairs John Buffon wrote: Their ballots are in both the confidential envelope and the outer envelope, and please fill out the outer envelope with all required information, including dates and signatures, before returning it. “
Also on Tuesday in Harrisburg, there was a three-to-three split on whether requiring envelope dates under state law violated a provision of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Opinions outlining the court’s reasons were not immediately available.
On the issue of federal civil rights law, Democratic judges Debra Todd, Kristin Donoghue, and David Wecht saw violations of federal law, while Democrats Kevin Doherty and Republicans Kevin Blobson and Sally Mundy did. It wasn’t.
In other election-related developments, Hess joined 290 “local political leaders” to “strongly disagree” with Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz’s statement during last week’s US Senate debate. He signed a letter released by Lieutenant Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman. Restrictions on abortion rights should be decided by “local political leaders”.
“Let’s be clear,” said the signer. The idea that ‘local political leaders’ should have equal say in how women decide how, when and how to start a family is deeply disturbing and irrelevant. “
Hess was the only Indiana area official to sign the letter.
Tuesday’s Election Commission meeting was recorded and the audio is available on the Indiana County Commission’s website.
The board has a series of upcoming meetings.
• Test run of ES&S DS100 Precinct and DS450 Central County aggregation instruments. Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioner’s meeting room.
According to the county website, “The DS200 is a precinct-based vote scanner and poll tabulator. The ExpressVote Universal Voting System uses touchscreen technology to create a paper-based record for tallying.”
According to contractor Election Systems & Software’s website, the DS450 is a “central scanner and tabulator” that “can process more votes in less time — 72 double-sided 14-inch (sheets) per minute — Write without stopping for overvoting: -Ins or blank votes.
• The county board of elections will convene at 10:00 am on November 9 to consider absentee and/or mail-in ballots set aside for the November 8 election.
• At 1:00 pm on November 10th, the Electoral Commission will convene again to inspect the provisional ballot envelopes cast by voters on November 8th.
• Then, at 9:00 a.m. on November 16, the county board of elections convened and the military votes must be received by 4:00 p.m. on November 15 to be counted in the November 8 election. Examine the ballot.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
https://www.indianagazette.com/news/local/state-supreme-court-county-election-board-weigh-in-on-curing-mailed-in-ballots/article_e91283b0-83ed-5973-934f-b74d6fe09654.html State Supreme Court, county board of elections complicit in ‘restoration’ of mail-in ballots | local news