Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds No-Excuse Mail-in Voting Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the state’s no-excuse mail-in voting law, Act 77, which passed in 2019 with bipartisan support to expand mail-in voting access. A member of the Bradford County Board of Elections and a group of Republican legislators — 11 of whom had voted in favor of Act 77’s passage — filed two lawsuits challenging the law. The cases, consolidated under McLinko v. Degraffenreid, alleged that Act 77 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution because it only allows voters to cast ballots in person unless they fall into a specific category of absentee voters. In January, a lower court held that the no-excuse mail-in voting law violated the state constitution, which the state then appealed. Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision and upheld the law, holding that “[w]e find no restriction in our constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal [no-excuse] mail-in voting.” 

In the 5-2 decision released today, the state Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court’s decision, which found that the phrase “offer to vote” in the Pennsylvania Constitution meant that voters can only cast their ballots in person and not by “mail or express.” The majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that the Pennsylvania Constitution’s phrase “offer to vote” does not mandate in-person voting, rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments raised below. The court addressed the state legislature’s authority to enact no-excuse mail-in voting, stating that the Pennsylvania Constitution’s only restriction on the General Assembly’s authority to pass voting legislation is to preserve secrecy. Notably, the opinion addresses the overwhelming bipartisan support that resulted in Act 77’s passage: “In the state Senate, Act 77 passed 35-14, with Republicans voting 27-0 in favor along with eight Democrats…In the state House of Representatives, it passed 138-61, with 105 Republicans and thirty-three Democrats voting in favor of it.”

Read the opinion here.

Learn more about the case here.