WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, June 27, a Pennsylvania court blocked another Republican-sponsored attempt to limit mail-in voting access in the commonwealth. This decision stems from a lawsuit brought by Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives against Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman (D) challenging Act 77, a 2019 law that largely expanded mail-in voting opportunities in the commonwealth.
Notably, Act 77 was passed with the support of 11 out of the 14 Republican legislators who sued to strike down the law. The exact same group of plaintiffs already sued over the law in 2021 and lost their case on Aug. 2, 2022, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the law.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs argued that Act 77 should be struck down due to its provision stating that “if any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remaining provisions or applications of this act are void” (in legal terms, this is known as a “non-severability provision”).
The plaintiffs argued that in light of a federal lawsuit, Migliori v. Lehigh County Board of Elections, in which the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited the application of two provisions of Act 77 —which required voters to date their outer secrecy envelopes for mail-in ballots — the entire law should be void. However, on Oct. 11, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the 3rd Circuit’s decision in Migliori, meaning the decision was voided.
During the Oct. 12, 2022, oral argument in the current Republican challenge to Act 77, Republicans argued that because of a decision in a separate lawsuit Chapman v. Berks County Board of Elections — which required counties to include undated mail-in ballots in vote totals — the entirety of Act 77’s expansion of mail-in voting access should be struck down. The court flatly rejected this argument.
In today’s opinion, the court held that “the Nonseverability Provision was not triggered, Petitioners have not established that their right to relief on their claim that Act 77, and all amendments thereto, must be declared void, and Petitioners’ Application is denied.”
Today’s decision is a victory for Pennsylvania voters as Act 77 will remain in place, thereby allowing increased opportunities for mail-in voting. Additionally, this decision is yet another rejection of Republicans’ attempts to upend mail-in voting in the commonwealth.