WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling will allow a three-day extension for mail-in ballots to be counted in Pennsylvania, rejecting Republican efforts to only count votes received by Election Day.
Deadlocked 4-4, the decision upholds a previous ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which allows election officials to receive and count ballots until November 6th.
The ruling states that ballots must be postmarked by the time the polls close on Election Day and must be received by the local election bureau by 5 p.m. on November 6th. Ballots lacking a clear postmark can be counted unless there is evidence it was mailed after the polls closed.
Eyewitness News found mixed reaction to the court’s ruling among local residents. Long lines have been commonplace at the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections Offices in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Most people lined up to vote in person with a mail-in ballot or to drop off an already completed ballot into the secure lock box in the lobby.
“I personally think it’s great. I know that I was a little bit nervous about getting my ballot on time. I kept checking everyday to see if it even had been mailed,” Dannah Hayward of Wilkes-Barre said. “So I think it’s a great idea especially with the drama surrounding the U.S. Postal Service, that’s what I was nervous about.”
Roy Vanwhy of Wilkes-Barre feels differently about the time extension for mail-in ballots to be counted after Election Day.
“I like the fact we have mail-in ballots so we can avoid long lines at the polls, but I wish they could be counted on the 3rd and not have to have an extension of three to four days after that. I like to know what the results are going to be by the end of the day,” Vanwhy said.
Kathy Bozinski is the chairperson of the Luzerne County Democratic Party. She gives the decision a thumbs up.
“Well first of all, this ruling really shows that the intent of the Constitution is to make voting as easy as possible for everyone in the electorate. That’s what our democracy was founded on,” Bozinski said.
Justin Behrens, chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party, he gives the ruling a thumbs down.
“I’m disappointed. I actually feel that we should not be counting three days after the election. State representatives came out with actual policy to use counting before the election. We should have legislature decision not by courtroom. It should be done by legislative body,” Behrens said.
Officials at the Luzerne County of Elections say they, like their colleagues across the commonwealth say, counting the mail-in ballots will take time and have plans in place to count them as quickly and accurately as possible.
The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections in the commonwealth is working with counties across Pennsylvania to develop plans to count the mail-in ballots. They point out that this will be the largest number of mail-in ballots they have ever seen in an election in Pennsylvania.