Nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvanians have already cast ballots ahead of election

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Pennsylvania Department of State announced Friday that 50% of requested mail-in ballots have been cast, that is 1.5 million Pennsylvanians that have already voted by mail-in or absentee ballots 11 days prior to the election.

"It's almost exactly the total number of Pennsylvanians who voted by mail in the primary and we still have 11 days ago," said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar.

To give you perspective, at this point before the June primary, less than 30% of mailed ballots had been received.

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Voting early is proving more popular with Democrats than Republicans. According to the Department of State, 1,023,402 of the ballots that have been returned came from Democrats, 293,318 came from Republicans, and132,680 came from other or unaffiliated party registrants, for a total of 1,449,400.

On Friday, at City Hall, people lined up to both cast ballots and to request a mail-in ballot.

And in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, long lines could be seen at the Bucks County Courthouse.

As we head closer to Election Day, expect to see officials gear up to maintain the integrity of the election in our battleground state.

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EARLY VOTING: The Pennsylvania Department of State announced Friday that 50% of requested mail-in ballots have been submitted.



Secretary Boockvar said they are coordinating with officials on all levels, saying, "I don't think there's ever been this level of coordination among this cross sector."

Expect to see lawsuits filed from both campaigns heading into the final week of the election.

On Friday, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled unanimously on a key concern surrounding an avalanche of mailed ballots, prohibiting counties from rejecting them if the voter's signature on it does not resemble the signature on the voter's registration form

Two Republican justices joined five Democratic justices in the decision.

The verdict was a victory for Boockvar, who had asked the court to back her up in a legal dispute with President Donald Trump's campaign and Republican lawmakers.

"County boards of elections are prohibited from rejecting absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparison conducted by county election officials or employees, or as the result of third-party challenges based on signature analysis and comparisons," the justices wrote.

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In her court filing, Boockvar had said that any such rejections pose "a grave risk of disenfranchisement on an arbitrary and wholly subjective basis," and without any opportunity for a voter to verify their signature before their ballot is disqualified.

Republican lawmakers and the Trump campaign had argued that the law is clear that election officials must compare the information on the mail-in ballot envelope, including a voter's signature, to a voter's information on file to determine a person's qualifications to vote.

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But the justices disagreed, as did a federal judge in a separate case brought earlier by Trump's campaign. Both said that the law on mail-in ballots makes it clear only that the ballot envelope requires the voter's signature, but not a matching signature.

In a statement, Pennsylvania's attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the decision a "win for voters."

Voters who use a mail-in ballot have their identity verified in their initial application, often using a driver's license number, he said.

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"Pennsylvania's voter identification system is safe and secure," he said. "We are protecting every eligible vote and ensuring each is counted."

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, accused Boockvar of undermining election security provisions in state law and said lawmakers never thought it could be interpreted to render "signatures required on the mail-in ballots being meaningless."

"People voting in person are now being held to a higher standard than those who mail in their ballots," he said in a statement.

He also said it is "astonishing" that courts endorsed the interpretation that matching signatures are required to vote in person, "but mail-in voting is officially a free-for-all."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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