WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Oct. 21, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision that denied a Republican request to temporarily block the authority of county boards of elections to develop and implement mail-in ballot cure procedures (the process by which a voter may be notified of a technical mistake with their mail-in ballot and attempt to rectify that mistake). Today’s affirmation of the lower court’s decision means that voters in counties with cure processes will be able to fix technical errors with their mail-in ballots when they vote this fall.
This case began when the Republican National Committee and other national and state Republicans filed a lawsuit — just days before Pennsylvania counties sent out mail-in ballots — against Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman (D) alleging that the Pennsylvania Election Code does not set cure procedures and the Legislature has not enacted “any law allowing for a cure procedure,” so county boards are not allowed to implement them. The plaintiffs argued that, because county boards vary in their adoption of cure procedures, this has “created an unequal playing field.” On Sept. 29, a lower court judge held that the Republican plaintiffs failed to show that mail-in ballot cure procedures are a “clear violation of the [Pennsylvania] Election Code,” allowing counties to continue to offer cure procedures.
After expedited briefing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the state’s highest court affirmed the lower court’s decision in a 3-3 order. After the sudden passing of former Chief Justice Max Baer in early October, there is currently an even number of justices on the court. In situations where the justices are evenly split in a decision, the lower court’s ruling is affirmed. This decision is a victory for many Pennsylvania voters as they will be able to rectify small technical mistakes with their mail-in ballots this fall.