HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania is renewing efforts to help voters using mail-in ballots in the battleground state avoid mistakes that could lead to their ballots being voided in the 2024 presidential election and beyond. Can.
In a new directive Wednesday, Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro's administration asked counties to start using a standard set of instructions to explain how to complete mail-in ballots, among other steps.
Shapiro's top elections official, Secretary of State Al Schmitt, said some counties already use these methods.
The effort comes amid a partisan standoff in the Pennsylvania Legislature and a court battle over provisions of the state's four-year-old mail-in voting law that have caused counties to throw out thousands of mail-in ballots cast by legal voters.
Voters completing a mail-in ballot must place their completed ballot in an inner secrecy envelope, insert it into the outer return envelope, and write their name, date, and signature on the back of the outer envelope.
Among other things, the state wants counties to begin using yellow privacy envelopes and return envelopes with a purple marking to help the Postal Service identify them.
In the 2023 primary, counties rejected about 17,000 mail ballots, or about 3% of all mail ballots cast, the State Department said. About half of the rejected ballots arrived after Election Day, while about 20% were thrown out due to lack of date and 15% due to lack of secrecy envelope. The department said a small number were excluded due to incorrect dates (8%) or lack of signatures (5%).
The majority of mail-in ballots are cast by Democrats, and Pennsylvania is again expected to be a close battleground in next year's presidential election. Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in 2020.
a federal judge ruled last week Rejecting Pennsylvania mail-in ballots due to incorrect handwritten dates on their outer envelopes is a violation of federal civil rights laws and those ballots must still be counted.
The GOP has repeatedly fought in court to exclude such ballots, part of a campaign to invalidate mail-in ballots and mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. Trump made baseless claims Mail balloting fraud was rampant in 2020.
Democratic lawmakers have sought, without success, to relax provisions of the law that result in ballots being thrown out.
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