Pennsylvania asks court to extend mail-in voting deadlines

J.D. Prose

Pennsylvania’s Department of State is asking the state Supreme Court to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots to be countable after the U.S. Postal Service told officials in late July that there is “a significant risk” that mailed ballots might not be delivered on time, according to multiple reports.

Tonia Fernandez, 42, supervisor of elections in Erie County, sorts mail-in ballots inside a locked room at the courthouse on June 2.

The revelation on Thursday came amid a whirlwind of developments that included President Donald Trump admitting that his opposition to additional funding for the Postal Service would hamper mail-in balloting, which he has said is rife with fraud. Trump has not cited any confirmed evidence — and he has requested a vote-by-mail ballot ahead of Florida's primary election on Tuesday.

Also on Thursday, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Pennsylvania ordered the Trump campaign to prove allegations of mail-in balloting fraud in its lawsuit to ban ballot drop-off sites in Pennsylvania ahead of the Nov. 3 election in which the Keystone State is considered vital to the president’s re-election bid.

Axios reported that the Postal Service’s general counsel and executive vice president Thomas Marshall told Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar in a July 29 letter that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”

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Marshall warned that the “mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”

The State Department responded that Marshall’s letter indicated “a significant change to the outlook for voting by mail in the general election,” Axios reported.

Currently, mail-in ballots must arrive in county elections offices by 8 p.m. when Pennsylvania polls close. Voters, though, can apply for a mail-in ballot until a week before the deadline, and that timeline coupled with the Postal Service’s warning is a problem

“To state it simply: voters who apply for mail-in ballots in the last week of the application period and return their complete ballot by mail will, through no fault of their own, likely be disenfranchised,” the state’s attorneys told the court, the Associated Press reported.

Wolf’s administration is asking the state Supreme Court to order that ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 be counted if they are valid and received during the three days following the election.

More than two dozen York County election workers count mail-in ballots on primary election Tuesday while social distancing.

Ballots received during those three days but lack a postmark or legible proof of mailing should also be counted, the administration’s lawyers wrote.

In the federal case, the Democratic Party and the Sierra Club intervened to ask for evidence that supported the Trump campaign’s allegations of mail-in balloting fraud, reported

U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Ranjan in Pittsburgh gave the Trump campaign one day to provide evidence. “Plaintiffs shall produce such evidence in their possession, and if they have none, state as much,” wrote Ranjan, according to CourthouseNews.

More than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians voted through mail-in balloting in the June 2 as fears of COVID-19 kept many people from voting in person.

J.D. Prose writes for the USA Today Network State Capitol Bureau. Reach him at 412-518-2085 or email