Ruling Could Invalidate Pennsylvania’s No-Excuse Voting by Mail

Pennsylvania’s election law that permits “no-excuse” mail-in voting might be at risk as a result of changes made to the law by Democrats in 2019 and a federal court ruling in May.

The change in the state law, known as Act 77, was passed in October 2019 and made a number of amendments to the Pennsylvania elections code. It set aside funding for the purchase of “election machines” and established the procedure for mail-in balloting without providing any special need.

Before Act 77 was enacted, Pennsylvania had some of the most strict rules regarding absentee voting in the nation.

The ruling that puts Act 77 at risk was made by the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The court’s decision declared one part of Act 77 to be invalid, a section that requires voters to date and sign the outside of their ballots. The court ruled that dating the outside of an envelope that is postmarked by the USPS is “immaterial” and declared the section unenforceable.

Republican state Rep. Seth Grove wrote a letter on Tuesday to acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman pointing out that Act 77 includes a “non-severability clause.” That clause says that if any part of the act is declared invalid, “the remaining provisions or applications of this act are void.”

Grove requested that Chapman provide the state’s position about the legal status of Act 77 in light of the Third Circuit ruling declaring the dating requirement invalid.

Grove made the argument in his letter that the non-severability clause has been triggered and the entirety of Act 77 is now invalid. He said the intent of the state legislature is clear and the entire bill “should now be void.”

He also asked if the Secretary of State would be notifying county election officials that the state election code has “reverted” to its status before Act 77 was passed.

Grove provided a statement to The Federalist saying he expected that Chapman “won’t do anything about it.” He added, “This is the same lady that said she publicly supports illegal voting.”

Litigation is likely to ensue seeking a judicial declaration that Act 77 is invalid because of the non-severability clause in the likely event that Chapman refuses to make the call as the state’s top election official.