EDITORIAL: Pa. voters face one less hurdle

York Dispatch editorial board
A voter casts her ballot at the drop box at the York County Administrative Center Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. County employees checked voters ballot to make sure they were submitted correctly. Bill Kalina photo

This week’s Supreme Court decision allowing mail-in ballots to be counted in Pennsylvania up to three days beyond Election Day was a welcome surprise but is by no means a harbinger of a conservative change of heart on voter suppression.

The court’s 4-4 tie, rejecting Republican opposition to the extension, came about only because the break-neck approval of last-minute high court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has not yet been completed. Once the dependably right-wing addition to the court has been consecrated, voter-suppression efforts will once again be given the checkered flag by the court’s checkered majority.

That Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three remaining left-of-center justices in upholding Pennsylvania’s ballot-counting extension doesn’t come close to making up for his role in helping to defang the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court’s lamentable 2013 decision, in which Roberts was the deciding vote for an ideologically split 5-4 majority, was the predictable impetus for a parade of subsequent efforts in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation to meddle with voters’ free and fair access to the ballot box.

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Just this month, for example, Pennsylvania House Republicans briefly toyed with establishing a last-minute “Select Commission on Election Integrity,” complete with GOP majority and subpoena power. It was only after considerable criticism — including Gov. Tom Wolf’s knock that the panel was an attempt to “steal the election” — that the plan was dropped.

Whatever the politics in ballot-box battles to come, the Supreme Court made the right call this week. There’s no reason for ballots mailed in by Election Day not to be counted, even if the postmark is smudged — particularly in light of the shenanigans being attempted to slow and muddle deliveries by President Donald Trump’s hand-picked lackey heading the U.S. Postal Service.

So, now that the approximately 2.8 million Pennsylvania voters who requested mail-in ballots have been assured a little Election Day breathing room, a word of advice to them: Don’t use it. Mail your ballot in early — today, if you can.

Given the stakes this year and Pennsylvania’s potentially pivotal role in the presidential race, there’s no simply reason to wait until the last minute — no matter who you’re voting for.

And if you’re politically attuned enough to request a mail-in ballot, odds are you know who you’re voting for in the presidential contest. In fact, by now, most voters do — or, at least should.

After all, the choice has seldom been so stark; the candidates and their agendas so well-established. Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden has been in politics for more than 45 years; incumbent Republican Trump has been in the public eye almost as long, and has been an open social-media book since announcing his campaign for, then winning, the White House.

True, these are not the only names on the ballot. Pennsylvania voters will be making some important state-level decisions: attorney general, auditor general and treasurer. Not to mention, locally, a hotly disputed congressional race between incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Perry and Democratic challenger Eugene DePasquale.

All the more reason to weigh in as early as possible to make certain your vote counts.

It’s disheartening that too many lawmakers, mostly on the right, routinely fight to limit voting accessibility — especially this year, when such measures protect not only their constituents’ rights but their health and, potentially, their lives.

But voters mustn’t let any obstacles deter them and, thanks to the Supreme Court decision, Pennsylvania’s mail-in voters face one fewer this year.

It’s now up to them — and the rest of the state’s electorate -- to cast their ballots and make their voices heard.