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Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting free-for-all

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With just a couple of weeks until Election Day, Pennsylvania — the most important swing state — is racing toward voting chaos.

Last year, the state legislature passed a law allowing no-excuse mail-in voting, a first for Pennsylvania. But the convergence of the new law, the COVID-19 pandemic, and state Democrats using the courts to rewrite the law is set to deliver an election catastrophe that will make Florida’s infamous “hanging chads” of 2000 pale by comparison.

Here’s the irony: While Democrats blame Republicans for the impending pandemonium, the mayhem stems from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, the state Democratic Party, and the Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court.

In September, the court — in response to a lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party against Boockvar — ruled that ballots can arrive up to three days after the election and still be counted, even without a postmark.

What’s more, the court ruled that mail-in ballots can be accepted at satellite locations, including unstaffed “drop boxes.” Put the two together, and mail-in ballots can be dropped off without a postmark any time up until 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, and still be counted.

Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay of this ruling. That request is pending.

Unfortunately, the madness doesn’t end here. In early October, Boockvar submitted a petition to the state Supreme Court, asking it to exercise its “King’s Bench” powers, under which it can essentially take up any matter, to order that mail-in ballots be accepted even if voters’ signatures don’t match the signatures on file.

Add this into the mix, and ballots with non-matching signatures and no postmarks can be dropped at unsecured drop boxes until Nov. 6 and still be counted.

While the court’s actions all but guarantee voting disaster, they’re unfortunately not surprising.

This is the same court that, in 2018, imposed a new congressional district map drawn by a Stanford professor, without legislative input or review, to benefit Democrats — after deeming unconstitutional the existing map, duly passed by the legislature with strong bipartisan approval.

Still, this latest hijacking of legislative authority will likely have the more immediately felt catastrophic outcome. Just recall Pennsylvania’s June 2 primary election.

On June 1, Gov. Wolf by executive order extended the mail-in ballot deadline by seven days, but only in certain counties — ignoring the state constitution’s requirement that “[a]ll laws regulating the holding of elections by the citizens, or for the registration of electors, shall be uniform throughout the State.”  

As a result, election outcomes for multiple races remained unknown for weeks. Philadelphia was still counting ballots two weeks after the election.

Turnout in November likely will be twice what it was in June. In the most important swing state in the nation, we could be counting votes until nearly Thanksgiving.

Indeed, a plausible scenario is that President Trump will lead in Pennsylvania on election night, but the results will flip by the time counting finishes weeks later, given the Democrats’ push for mail-in voting instead of in-person voting on Nov. 3.

Pennsylvania’s story is particularly egregious, because legislation is making its way through the General Assembly to address voting issues and ensure a safe and secure election this November. The Supreme Court justices are aware of this, yet hijacked legislative authority and imposed their own policy changes. In doing so, they effectively told lawmakers not to bother doing their jobs. The court will do it for them. And the Wolf administration is spurring the court on.

Unfortunately, such mayhem isn’t restricted to Pennsylvania.

In Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina, courts have moved to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots by as much as 14 days after the election, provided they’re postmarked by or before Election Day.

Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution clearly provides that the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”

Across the country, courts are overstepping their bounds and trampling the Constitution by usurping legislative powers.

While the U.S. Supreme Court is rightly hesitant to involve itself in intrastate disputes, when a clear constitutional violation is at stake, the high court must intervene. If it does not, the immediate outcome this November will make us long for the days of hanging chads. 

Matthew J. Brouillette is president and CEO of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs. Follow him on Twitter @MattBrouillette.

Tags 2020 election absentee voting Donald Trump Kathy Boockvar mail-in ballot Pennslyvania swing states Tom Wolf

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