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05/24/2024 06:38 PM
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2022 10:16 AM
From: Senator James R. Brewster
To: All Senate members
Subject: Removing the requirement for date on mail-in ballots
Both absentee and mail-in ballots require voters to fill out, sign and date the return envelope that contains the ballot and secrecy envelop. However, since the time of enactment of both types of ballots, there has been confusion regarding the application of these requirements. Numerous challenges and decisions, including guidance by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, interpretations by county boards of elections and decisions by various courts, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, federal district and circuit courts and even the United States Supreme Court.

In fact, recently the United States Supreme Court remanded a case to a federal district court that involved the dating issue on absentee and mail in ballots. Further, this summer, the President Judge of the Commonwealth Court issued a non-binding, memorandum opinion on the issue of dating absentee and mail in ballots.  All of these pronouncements and procedures have only added confusion, uncertainty and distrust to the use of these valid methods of voting.

My own 2020 election was marred by petitions to the state and federal courts intended to wipe out the will of hundreds of voters. The implications of the resulting court battle were dire, threatening to hold up state certification of the election which could have affected the presidential race and opened the door for more misinformation and meddling.

I am introducing legislation that will clarify state law and prevent minor errors from canceling the will of voters. Under this legislation, I propose removing the requirement that the outside envelop include a handwritten date in order to be valid. However, that does not mean there will be a free-for-all regarding absentee and mail ballots. Rather, those ballots, both mail-in or absentee ballots, will be required to be received by the board of elections by election day – or postmarked by the date of the election –in order to be counted.  

Despite the millions of dollars wasted on lawyers and litigation in the wake of the 2020 election, no one has offered a viable reason why these ballots must be dated by the voter in order to be counted or why the postmark is insufficient evidence of timeliness.  My legislation will simply remove this unnecessary requirement, avoid confusion and require that ballots be returned or mailed to the appropriate board of elections on or before 8 p.m. on Election Day.

I hope you will join me in eliminating this needless requirement.

Introduced as SB857