decision 2022

Voting by Mail Grows as Partisan Issue in Pa., as Voters Showed in May Primary

The disparity in Democrats using mail ballots compared to Republican voters was huge in the May 17 primary, according to results late on Election Day.

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Supporters of Pennsylvania's two candidates in this year's November general election for governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano, probably don't see eye-to-eye on most issues.

When it comes to casting their vote, they literally don't see eye-to-eye.

That's because Republican voters who chose Mastriano in the May 17 primary almost all showed up in person to cast their ballots. Just 13,383 votes out of 380,798 who cast ballots for Mastriano used mail-in ballots. That's 3 out of 100.

Meanwhile, 386,314‬ of 788,288 Democratic voters who cast a ballot for Shapiro used mail-in ballots. That's nearly a 50-50 split between mail-in and in-person. Those results were as of 10:45 p.m. on Election Night.

It makes some sense that Mastriano's supporters would choose to overwhelmingly ignore mail-in ballots: the candidate has said he wants to get rid of voting by mail if he is elected governor.

Whether his stance makes sense is an issue for a future story -- or stories -- between now and the general election in November. Mastriano, a state senator from rural central Pennsylvania, voted for universal mail balloting just three years ago.

In a campaign statement in January, Mastriano wrote that Pennsylvania Democrats "hijacked" the 2019 law -- the one Mastriano voted for twice that year -- that allows universal voting by mail.

"Using the pretext of COVID, Pennsylvania Democrats made their move to hijack Act 77 and transform it into something NO Republican voted for," Mastriano wrote.

He's referring to rules that Gov. Tom Wolf's administration put in place related to how county election officials should proceed with mail ballots that were returned with errors, like a missing signature or no secrecy envelope.

Those rules by the Wolf administration did make their way through the court system, including one type of mistake that made its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But none of the rules or errors ever proved to be enough to cost any candidates an election, including former President Donald Trump.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is currently weighing Act 77 and the legality of universal access to mail-in ballots, but election law experts believe it is unlikely that the state's highest court gets rid of it.

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