On Monday, November 9, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined a multistate brief where he urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a state court decision to rewrite Pennsylvania’s absentee ballot receipt deadline law.
West Virginia joined the Oklahoma-led brief, which compliments a similar filing from Missouri and nine other states, with attorneys general from Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Tennessee.
Originally, the state of Pennsylvania allowed 50 days for voters to return their ballots to ensure they were received by election day; however, the coalition argues the Pennsylvania Supreme Court repealed that deadline improperly and changed it to reflect a new postmark date that is valid up to three days after Election Day.
The coalition believes that these changes made by a 4-3 majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could affect future elections across the country.
The brief presented by the coalition argues that the state’s ruling creates chaos that makes it impossible for state legislatures to know in advance whether the election rules they have enacted will or will not be creatively imagined through courts.
The brief also states that the change could “increase the risk of voters casting ballots after initial election results are released, and undermine confidence in an election if the Election Day results change from votes that are received days after.”
According to the coalition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court assumed that local, state and federal officials would be unprepared for increased absentee voting.
“…an assumption that was unjustified and has since proven wrong,” the brief read, adding that it would be better to change the deadline so that some, not all, ballots postmarked on Election Day will be counted.
“This is a clear example of courts legislating from the bench, and the impact shakes the very core of our democracy,” Attorney General Morrisey said.
“Pennsylvania’s legislature wrote clear instructions concerning the deadlines for absentee ballots. Now its Supreme Court has decided it knows better than elected lawmakers. We absolutely urge the U.S. Supreme Court to review this case without delay.”
A press release from the Attorney General’s Office states that “the brief contends the high court need not wait for the next election cycle to precipitate yet another deluge of litigation. Doing so could allow state courts to once again amend state law right before the election — and for the beneficiaries of these unconstitutional actions to argue that there is once again not enough time for the U.S. Supreme Court’s careful review on the merits.”
The coalition argues that under the Constitution, state legislatures must choose the point to stop receiving absentee ballots and start counting votes, not state courts. Additionally, they believe that the U.S. Supreme Court should review the matter to secure the constitutional framework for future elections.
Absentee ballot receipt deadlines serve a state’s interest in “conducting an efficient election, maintaining order, quickly certifying election results and preventing fraud.”