In a unanimous ruling Friday the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court held that a voter’s absentee or mail-in ballot cannot be rejected based solely on a comparison of the signature on the ballot with the voter’s signature on their registration form.
The ruling came as a result of a King’s Bench petition by Kathy Boockvar, Secretary of the Commonwealth, and the state’s highest election official. A King’s Bench petition is an appeal directly to the supreme court to issue a ruling of law. In this particular case, Boockvar asked the court to give an opinion regarding whether the election code either authorizes or requires county election boards to reject absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparisons. The Secretary urged the court to find that there was no requirement to compare signatures.
The petition came in response to a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s election campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) challenging Secretary Boockvar’s interpretation of the election code. While the application for the King’s Bench petition was pending, the district court ruled against the president and the RNC, finding that “[a] plain reading of the Election Code demonstrates that it does not impose a signature-comparison requirement for mail-in ballots and applications, and thus Plaintiffs’ vote-dilution claim sounding in due process fails at the outset.”
The state supreme court found the district court’s opinion to be “scholarly and comprehensive” when it issued its decision, which also found the language of the election code clear in that “at no time did the Code provide for challenges to ballot signatures.” They also found that the legislature, when it expanded mail-in voting, “eliminated the ability of third-parties to challenge ballots at canvassing.” The county election boards, therefore, cannot reject absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparisons either by county officials or by third-party challenges.
After the decision, Secretary Boockvar tweeted, “Huge victory for free and fair elections in Pennsylvania!”