On Friday, an appeals court ruled along party lines that a statute allowing Pennsylvanians no-excuse, mail-in voting was unconstitutional. As reported in the Pennsylvania Capital Star, Mary Hannah Leavitt, R, president judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, wrote the 45-page opinion.
It says the Commonwealth has to change the constitution before allowing Pennsylvanians to vote by mail without an excuse. Pay attention, Bucks County. The Republican state senator Bob Mensch, serving Bridgeton Township, was one of the sponsors of the bill that became Act 77.
How the winds of politics have changed. Three years ago, the Pennsylvania legislature passed resolution 2019 Act 77, Amending the Act of June 3, 1937 (P.L.1333, No.320, and, nicht, nyet, ney, 不, non, you do not want to read that) with broad political support. It was considered a landmark piece of legislation at the time.
Under Act 77, anybody for any reason could ask for a mail-in ballot and vote. Huzzah!
There were fail-safes in place. Like, the government had these things called “computer systems.” If someone had already “voted” with a mail-in ballot, their vote would not be counted if they attempted to vote in person. This was also true, in reverse. One person, one name, one address, one signature, one vote. Despite what Trumpy people claim.
That was the system on election day, no matter how many ballots are mistakenly mailed out to dead people, y’all.
But then the 2020 election took place, with bogus claims of corrupt mail-in ballots and the election became a fun house mirror. There were GOP analysts/overpaid consultants/Fox blabberers/hangers on/Sidney Powell-Rudy Giuliani acolytes/ who grabbed the ear of willing Republicans and explained how mail-in-ballots were BAD.
Representative Mike Kelly, R 16, above left, did not like the 2020 election results. (Yes, this is the same Mike Kelly who said, “You know, they talked about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white.” And he was re-elected.)
On November 7, four days after the election, Mike Kelly loyally said: “In our representative republic, it is not the media who declares the winner of elections. Right now, the Trump Campaign is engaged in several court cases to determine the integrity of the vote in multiple states. None of those states have officially certified their vote counts, and investigations into voting irregularities are ongoing.”
For Republicans, nothing seemed more irregular than mail-in ballots. Why? Because they lost the election, and when you lose you change the rules.
Also because they heard that someone’s cousins’ dead grandfather received three mail-in-ballot applications. So you see, there could be cheating going on.
Congressman Mike Kelly didn’t just whine about dead people getting ballots. He led a group of eight in filing a suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the general assembly, the governor and the secretary of the Commonwealth for their role in passing Act 77. Why? Because voting laws cannot be changed by a mere “Act,” which they did in 2019. There must be a change in the Constitution, they asserted. Now that Republicans are against voting by mail, and dominate the Pennsylvania legislature, good luck on that one, pal.
Mike Kelly got 28 envious congresspersons (all Republicans, of course) to file an amicus brief. Those Congresspersons included such standouts of jurisprudence as Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Jody Hice of Georgia, Louis Gohmert of Texas and our own Scott Perry. Just to prove how conservative these Conservatives were, they reached back to the original Pennsylvania Constitution to prove that the legislature had fumbled when they passed the act: you had to be standing right there in the election district so your neighbors (back then all male, of course) could watch you vote. They also admired a decision in 1923 when the City of Lancaster lost a case in which it tried to count mail-in-ballots. And, a fave: Bush v. Gore.
Mike Kelly bragged about the Commonwealth Appeals court decision on January 28 in a press release: “The ruling by the Commonwealth Court is exactly why I led the challenge of Act 77 over a year ago. Act 77 is unconstitutional and deserves further review.”
Luckily for the Commonwealth, there will be further review. The decision has already been appealed to the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court, which has a Democratic bias. Then again, Kelly’s crew, aware of the power in numbers in the opposite direction, had already applied once to the U.S. Supreme Court for injunctive relief (denied) and no doubt will again if the state Supreme Court ruling goes against them.
Meanwhile the Pennsylvania decision to clamp down on mail-in-ballots was reported in surprising places, like Al Jazeera English, which is said to have an anti-American bias.
How are Pennsylvania Republicans going to explain to their constituents and themselves that while they once enthusiastically supported Act 77, they now believe Mike Kelly is right about the legislation being all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with PACs and campaign money in Washington.
The day the appeals court ruling came out Pennsylvania Republicans responded with one voice through Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman: “After what occurred in the 2020 and 2021 elections, I have no confidence in the no-excuse mail in ballot provisions.”
An old Russian proverb: “It is not the horse that draws the cart but the oats.“