Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law survives constitutional challenge by GOP lawmakers

Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law has survived a constitutional challenge by Republican officials who voted for it three years ago. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state Legislature did not overstep its authority when it passed the 2019 law that permits anyone to vote by mail without an excuse. 

The 5-2 decision reverses a Commonwealth Court order that would have invalidated the law.

Commonwealth Court declared the law, known as Act 77, unconstitutional in a 3-2 January decision, as it ruled on two challenges to the law — one brought by the Republican lawmakers, as well as a separate one from Bradford County Commissioner Doug McClinko.

It was approved in a deal between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf, in which lawmakers voted for no-excuse mail-in balloting and Wolf agreed to end straight-ticket voting, in which voters can vote for all of the candidates of a party together.

The Commonwealth Court, in a majority decision by Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, found that the Pennsylvania Constitution requires voters to appear at the polls in person unless they have one of a number of excuses specified in amendments that allow voting by absentee ballot.

In the opinion by the Supreme Court majority, Justice Christine Donohue wrote that the five justices found no restriction in the constitution on the Legislature’s ability to create mail-in voting.

Chief Justice Max Baer and justices Debra Todd, David Wecht, and Kevin Doherty joined in the majority opinion. Justices Sallie Mundy and Kevin Brobson filed dissenting opinions.


Peter Hall is a senior reporter at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.