Update on Vote by Mail Rules

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority, has ruled that election officials must count ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by the Friday after. In addition, the court ruled that local officials may set up ballot return drop boxes and also affirmed a ban on poll-watchers working in counties other than those they are registered to vote in. Republicans are appealing.

The court also ruled that so-called “naked” mail ballots wouldn’t count, leading election officials are warning that up to 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised without adequate voter outreach. Such ballots are mail ballots contained only inside the outer envelope that contains the return address information, but the court’s ruling requires that all mail ballots be inserted into a second “privacy envelope” that goes inside the larger return-address envelope. During the primary, such “naked ballots” were counted, risking further voter confusion this fall.

Consequently, Democrats launched TV ads in Philadelphia to warn voters about how to avoid the problem there, and three women running for state and county legislative offices in the Pittsburgh area used photos of themselves “naked” (the photos were censored with graphics of ballot materials) in a public service announcement that went viral on social media to raise awareness about the problem.

Separately, Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has informed election officials that they may not reject mail ballots solely based on alleged signature mismatches, settling a suit with voting rights advocates.

The secret ballot envelopes are not opened and the ballots processed through the tabulator until Election day.