In October 2019, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a bipartisan reform of the state’s election laws, providing in part for no-excuse mail-in voting for all registered voters. Known as Act 77, the legislation also extended the deadline for mail-in ballots from 5 PM the Friday before an election to 8 PM on election day.
In April 2020, Plaintiffs Crossey and the Pennslyvania Alliance for Retired Americans asked for an injunction to delay the upcoming Primary Election on June 2 – a request that, on appeal, was denied as moot on June 4 (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (No. 32-MAP-2020). In that same complaint, the plaintiffs challenged Act 77 and asked the court to relax the standards for mail-in voting. They argued that Act 77 was unconstitutional and hindered Pennsylvania voters’ right to vote amidst a global pandemic. They wanted to change the receive-by deadline for mail-in ballots and to a mail-by deadline and allow ballots that arrive after the election to be counted. In the early stages of this complaint, Secretary of State Boockvar argued that the plaintiffs failed to show that enforcing the 8 PM deadline was unconstitutional as applied to all voters across the state.
On June 1, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, citing civil unrest after the George Floyd killing, issued an executive order that changed the long-standing receive-by deadline and authorized the counting of ballots that were mailed by the close of the election and received by June 9. The executive order also required these ballots to be segregated.
In an amended complaint prior to the general election, Crossey asked Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the 8:00 p.m. received-by deadline, require prepaid postage on mail-in ballots, and allow for the use of third-party assistance in collecting mail-in ballots (also known as ballot-harvesting).
On September 17, the Court dismissed all three requests. The ballot deadline extension was moot because the court had already granted a 3-day ballot extension in Pennsylvania Democratic Party, et al. v. Boockvar, K., et al., (133 MM 2020). The request for prepaid postage on absentee ballots was unnecessary Secretary Boockvar announced that she would provide funding for return postage. And the long-standing ban on ballot-harvesting was upheld.
Essentially, the plaintiffs achieved most of their goals through executive and judicial action, not by legislative means.