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Some voters received their mail-in ballots so late that drop boxes were placed throughout Pennsylvania to ensure that completed ballots were received on time. Credit: Kylie Cooper

President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump’s reelection campaign filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State and County Elections Boards, arguing that Pennsylvania’s use of mail-in ballot drop boxes in the June 2 primary election was unconstitutional and increased the threat of voter fraud.   

While Act 77 of 2019 allows Pennsylvania voters to cast mail-in ballots without reason, the suit, filed June 29, argues that Pennsylvania elections officials’ decision to offer drop boxes for mail-in ballots was not a procedure outlined in the law, and leaves elections vulnerable to fraud, according to The Hill. 

The suit asks a federal court to bar mail-in ballot drop boxes in November.

Along with Trump, the Republican National Committee, four Republican members of Congress from Pennsylvania, and two Republican voters also filed the suit. Defendants include Pa. secretary of state Kathy Boockvar and the boards of elections of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

Mail-in ballot drop boxes became a central part of the Pennsylvania primary this year, which was delayed from April 28 to June 2 in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. A large influx of mail-in ballots overloaded county elections offices, and some voters received their ballots so late that they would be unable to mail the ballots in, prompting elections officials to set up drop box locations in shopping centers, parking lots, and college campuses, among other places. 

According to the suit, however, state law requires ballots to be directly delivered to county elections offices.

The Democratic party believes the lawsuit will make it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to vote in November, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Donald Trump and Washington Republicans are trying to suppress the voices of Pennsylvanians because they know the easier it is for everyday people to vote, the more likely it is that they will lose,” Sinceré Harris, Executive Director of the state Democratic Party, told the Inquirer. 

The lawsuit claims that several counties counted ballots sent without secrecy envelopes, a type of envelope that retains ballot anonymity, the Inquirer reported. This would also violate Pennsylvania elections law.

Before this year's primary, the state had a restrictive absentee ballot system in which only 5% of all votes were cast by mail, according to the Inquirer. The state saw a high volume of mail-in ballot requests this year due to the pandemic as well as the 2019 passage of Act 77 in Pennsylvania, which now allows anyone to vote by mail rather than only those who are unable to vote in person.

The suit follows Trump’s tweets criticizing the mail-in ballot system and accusing the Democratic party of attempting to rig the election. 

A May 2020 Stanford University study found that universal vote-by-mail had no significant effect on partisan turnout, however, and rather led to a boost in overall turnout by 2%, The Washington Post reported.

“The bigger problem has been that national Republicans, most notably President Trump, have politicized the issue,” Political Science professor Matthew Levendusky told The Daily Pennsylvanian last month. “But there is no evidence of any partisan bias in mail-in ballots.” 

The ongoing lawsuit could have implications come November for how Pennsylvania conducts mail-in voting.