A Pennsylvania court on Friday ruled that the state’s two-year-old mail-in voting law is unconstitutional, agreeing with challenges by Republicans who soured on mail-in voting after then-President Donald Trump began baselessly attacking it as rife with fraud during his 2020 Presidential election campaign.
According to a Commonwealth Court filing released Friday, the court ruled that Act 77, allowing residents to vote by mail in Pennsylvania, violates Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania constitution.
The Commonwealth Court denied the Pa. Department of State acting secretary’s application for summary relief.
In the ruling, Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote, “If presented to the people, a constitutional amendment to end Article VII, Section 1 requirement of in-person voting is likely to be adopted. But a constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation allowing no-excuse mail-in voting can be ‘placed upon our statute books.'”
Friday’s decision by a five-judge Commonwealth Court panel could be put on hold immediately by an appeal from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to the state Supreme Court.
The decision throws the state’s voting laws into doubt in a big election year.
The three Republican judges agreed with Republican challengers. The two Democrats on the panel dissented.
Governor Wolf said his administration would immediately appeal the decision in the hopes the Supreme Court would issue a stay, thus halting the lower court’s decision.
Act 77, the Pennsylvania law which legalized no-excuse mail-in voting in 2019, was originally born out of a compromise between legislative Republicans and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
At the time, Republicans voted 27-0 in the state Senate in favor of the legislation, and 105-2 in the House. However, following the election, some Republicans wrote legislation calling for the repeal of Act 77, claiming no-excuse mail-in voting violates the constitution.
“The Republican-controlled legislature passed Act 77 with strong bipartisan support in 2019 to make voting more safe, secure, and accessible and millions of Pennsylvanians have embraced it. The simple fact is that despite near-unanimous Republican legislative support for this historic update to Pennsylvania election law, they now want to strip away mail-in voting in the service of the “big lie,” Wolf said in a statement.