A little more than a month before the May election, Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting is still a murky mess

March 29 – A Pennsylvania appellate court upheld ballot curing in PA last week. The Republican National Committee brought the lawsuit last year. 

In PA, the commonwealth court is the appellate level court that hears any cases involving municipal or government entities. 

The judge threw the lawsuit out on a technicality, saying these local election officials are under the jurisdiction of the county court and the case should not have been filed in the commonwealth court. It should have been filed in county court. 

What that means is nothing has changed in Pennsylvania. So it’s all basically a patchwork system where some counties allow curing and others don’t. 

Here’s what goes on with ballot curing:  If you send in a mail-in ballot in some counties and the election office workers see there’s something wrong with it or missing, they will call you and give you the chance to fix it. Other election workers in other counties discard all incorrect ballots and they are not counted. 

So where you live depends on what will happen if a mail-in ballot is a little wonky. 

It’s easy to see how that makes a whole lot of mud of election results in Pennsylvania. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “This just shows us the maybe negative unintended consequences, but maybe the big mistake on expanding to all mail-in voting possibility here in Pennsylvania instead of leaving it as just the absentee ballot because all these things come up about unequal treatment, which we wouldn’t have if we just had our traditional voting in person with an ability to do absentee if you cannot do that. What bothers me about this ruling, it just really puts it almost back at the same level of unequal treatment because they’re saying if you want to fight this you have to do it in your local court system. If you get a bunch of different court rulings from local court systems, that doesn’t clear up anything and that’s potentially what you’re going to get.” 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I think that’s actually what’s going to happen here. It may eventually find its way back to the commonwealth court as all these counties might make different decisions on this. It’s such a mosaic of problems because yes there’s issues with the mail-in votes, but then there’s this whole separate category of how about the people that bring in their mail-in ballot and turn it in over the counter and as they’re turning it in over the counter, the clerk says, hey, you forgot to sign that or you forgot to date it?” 

If the person is allowed to fix it, should that be included? Because that’s considered curing as well. 

Barkdoll said, “It’s totally unresolved at this point, so for the May election, whatever your county was doing previously, presumably they’ll still do it the same way this year.” 

Jansen noted, “Justice delayed is justice denied. It’s going to go all through this and maybe end up back at the court. This I think was an irresponsible decision. It doesn’t help anything. Meanwhile we still have all this murky water out there and people continue to not trust our elections because of this stuff.” 

Barkdoll said, “That’s the bottom line here. When you see these kind of decisions and you have this piecemeal fashion of how Pennsylvania counties are counting mail-in ballots that have deficiencies, it undermines people’s confidence in the system. In this county, your faulty ballot was counted because you’re allowed to cure it. In the next county, it was discarded because it was not cured. That is not a good way to operate.”