The Cure for Pennsylvania’s Mail-in Ballots
On October 23, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots must be accepted regardless of whether or not the signatures on the ballots match those on file with the state. Also on the 23rd, the Washington Times ran an article by Stephen Dinan that contrasted the new procedures in the Keystone State with those in a state with more experience with mail-in voting: “In Oregon, which pioneered vote-by-mail and where every voter is automatically mailed a ballot, thousands of votes are disqualified in each election because signatures didn’t match.”
Mr. Dinan then reports that Oregon gives voters a chance to correct signature discrepancies and thereby have their votes counted. According to Ballotpedia, “eighteen states require officials to notify voters and allow voters to correct signature errors through a process called ballot curing.” The opportunity to “cure” one’s mistakes is also referenced on page 12 of the Pennsylvania court’s ruling:
Judge Ranjan also considered the effect of interpreting Section 3146.8(g)(3) to require signature comparison. In his view, doing so would create a risk that voters would be disenfranchised, given that mail-in and absentee ballots are kept securely stored until election day when the pre-canvassing process begins, and the Election Code contains no requirement that voters whose ballots are deemed inadequately verified be apprised of this fact. Thus, unlike in-person voters, mail-in or absentee voters are not provided any opportunity to cure perceived defects in a timely manner. [Italics added.]
So under the court’s new ruling, signatures need not match for mail-in voters, but in-person voters must continue to provide signatures that match what’s on file with the state. I.e., signatures are verified for in-person voters, but not for mail-in voters. Therefore, in-person voters are held to a higher, more rigorous standard than mail-in voters. Might that not “disenfranchise” some in-person voters? To make things “equal” for all Pennsylvania voters where no one is disenfranchised due to non-matching signatures, shouldn’t the court have forbidden the vetting of signatures for both mail-in and in-person voters?
This inequality in the treatment of mail-in and in-person voters was created by the legislature, not the court. The court doesn’t seem to be “legislating from the bench” here. But in another case concerning the counting of mail-in ballots received after Election Day, Pennsylvania’s high court does appear to be guilty of legislating. On Oct. 19, Brianna Lyman reported on this other case at Daily Caller:
The state Supreme Court disagreed, ruling Sept. 17 to extend the deadline for ballots to be counted as valid through Nov. 6. The court said ballots that “lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible” will be “presumed to have been mailed by Election Day” unless proven otherwise.
That’s quite a presumption, and it clears the way for fraud in Pennsylvania. The problem with counting votes on Election Night before all the ballots have been received was treated Oct. 29 by Jim Geraghty at National Review’s The Corner:
In most jurisdictions, ballots are at least required to be postmarked by Election Day or before. But the Pennsylvania supreme court ordered that a ballot with no postmark or an illegible postmark must be regarded as timely if it is received up to three days after Election Day. Whether or not someone thinks election fraud on a scale to tip a close election is probable, this set of rules makes this kind of fraud possible, as some malefactor can determine how many ballots are needed on Election Night to close the gap, spend Wednesday collecting [or creating] the required number of absentee ballots, and then deliver them within the three-day window and add them to the total. It makes little sense to have one deadline for one set of voters and another deadline for another set of voters.
For those who want to commit election fraud in Pennsylvania this year, mail-in voting is clearly the way to go. Here’s a little something that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should have also demanded: There will be no counting of any votes until all the ballots have been received; so after the first count, no additional late-arriving ballots will be accepted. But throughout the nation, Election Night counts and even subsequent recounts are conducted and reported, despite tardy ballots continuing to pour in.
What the Pennsylvania court doesn’t understand is that ballots that arrive after Election Day, and especially after preliminary vote counts have been reported, may well be the biggest threat to election integrity. The practice of accepting such tardy ballots has thrown several elections in “the world’s greatest democracy” to candidates who received the fewer votes.
Since the high court in Pennsylvania is not above legislating, what they should have done is demand that all voters be treated the same. But the truly guilty party in America’s fraud-prone elections for federal office is Congress. Decades ago, Congress should have imposed a single standard for conducting federal elections on all the states, for if a single state, through fraud or error, swings an election for president to a candidate who did not get the most votes, then that state has disenfranchised voters in all the other states.
It’s amazing that Congress has let this sorry state of affairs persist for so long. If there is doubt about a 2020 winner having received the most votes and the nation is plunged into some serious civil strife after this election, Congress will deserve much of the blame.
America may be able to put a man on the Moon, but when it comes to elections we’re a banana republic. But that’s the way the political class wants it, because Mr. Geraghty’s “malefactors” could not manufacture the requisite number of ballots for their candidate to win if we had decent voting systems and procedures. There is no “cure” for what ails America’s election systems -- they need to be replaced.
Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.
Image, Flickr, G Witteveen