Gray area of mail-in voting law up to Pennsylvania court

Mail-in ballot

In this May 28, 2020, file photo, mail-in primary election ballots are processed at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

With the Trump campaign’s lawsuit in federal court on hold until October, it could be up to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court to settle crucial questions of election law in the presidential battleground, including whether ballots mailed without secrecy envelopes can be counted.

The state Supreme Court could decide as early as Monday whether to take over and fast-track a state Democratic Party lawsuit that asks justices to order counties to count mail-in ballots that arrive without secrecy envelopes in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

It is a gray area of the law, and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, estimated the number of votes returned without secrecy envelopes is from 3% to 5% of all mailed-in ballots.

“That’s a significant number, so that issue needs to be resolved,” Costa said.

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Pennsylvania authorized a broad vote-by-mail law last year at a prescient time, just before the coronavirus pandemic fueled interest in voting by mail, instead of risking exposure to infection by voting at polling places in the state’s June 2 primary election.

As a result, more than half of the 2.8 million ballots cast were mail-in or absentee ballots. That record-smashing number of votes-by-mail is expected to grow in the presidential election, when Pennsylvania could help decide the outcome.

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Which way will Pa. vote?

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