McLinko v. Penna. Dept. of State, et al. (majority)

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Justia Opinion Summary

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered a question of whether the General Assembly overstepped its constitutional authority by enacting legislation that allowed for universal mail-in voting. Among other things, "Act 77" effected major amendments to the Pennsylvania Election Code, including universal, state-wide mail-in voting. On November 21, 2020, eight petitioners – including a Republican congressman and Republican candidates for the United States House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – filed a petition for review with the Commonwealth Court seeking to halt the certification of the 2020 General Election, and including a facial challenge to the portions of Act 77 that established universal mail-in voting. The Supreme Court exercised extraordinary jurisdiction over the matter, and found a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing [the] facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment[,]” as the petitioners waited until the ballots from the General Election were in the process of being tallied, and the results were becoming apparent, to raise their claim. Thus, the Court found the claim barred by the doctrine of laches. The Court found no restriction in the Pennsylvania Constitution on the General Assembly's ability to create universal mail-in voting.

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[J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA MIDDLE DISTRICT BAER, C.J., TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY, BROBSON, JJ. DOUG MCLINKO, Appellee v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF STATE; AND LEIGH M. CHAPMAN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellants TIMOTHY R. BONNER, P. MICHAEL JONES, DAVID H. ZIMMERMAN, BARRY J. JOZWIAK, KATHY L. RAPP, DAVID MALONEY, BARBARA GLEIM, ROBERT BROOKS, AARON J. BERNSTINE, TIMOTHY F. TWARDZIK, DAWN W. KEEFER, DAN MOUL, FRANCIS X. RYAN, AND DONALD "BUD" COOK, Appellees v. LEIGH M. CHAPMAN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Appellants : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : No. 14 MAP 2022 : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : No. 15 MAP 2022 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 244 MD 2021 dated January 28, 2022. ARGUED: March 8, 2022 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 293 MD 2021 dated January 28, 2022. ARGUED: March 8, 2022 DOUG MCLINKO v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF STATE; AND LEIGH M. CHAPMAN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA CROSS APPEAL OF: YORK COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE, WASHINGTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE, BUTLER COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE TIMOTHY R. BONNER, P. MICHAEL JONES, DAVID H. ZIMMERMAN, BARRY J. JOZWIAK, KATHY L. RAPP, DAVID MALONEY, BARBARA GLEIM, ROBERT BROOKS, AARON J. BERNSTINE, TIMOTHY F. TWARDZIK, DAWN W. KEEFER, DAN MOUL, FRANCIS X. RYAN, AND DONALD "BUD" COOK v. LEIGH M. CHAPMAN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF STATE CROSS APPEAL OF: YORK COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE, WASHINGTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : No. 17 MAP 2022 : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : No. 18 MAP 2022 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 244 MD 2021 dated January 28, 2022. ARGUED: March 8, 2022 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 293 MD 2021 dated January 28, 2022. ARGUED: March 8, 2022 [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 2 COMMITTEE, BUTLER COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE : TIMOTHY R. BONNER, P. MICHAEL JONES, DAVID H. ZIMMERMAN, BARRY J. JOZWIAK, KATHY L. RAPP, DAVID MALONEY, BARBARA GLEIM, ROBERT BROOKS, AARON J. BERNSTINE, TIMOTHY F. TWARDZIK, DAWN W. KEEFER, DAN MOUL, FRANCIS X. RYAN, AND DONALD "BUD" COOK, : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : Cross Appellants v. LEIGH M. CHAPMAN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Appellees No. 19 MAP 2022 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 293 MD 2021 dated January 28, 2022. ARGUED: March 8, 2022 OPINION JUSTICE DONOHUE DECIDED: August 2, 2022 This is a case that is steeped in the history of this Commonwealth and the development of its Constitution. More than one hundred years ago, this Court recognized that our Constitution mandates that elections be free and equal, but that the “[t]he power to regulate elections is a legislative one, [which] has been exercised by the General Assembly since the foundation of the government.” Winston v. Moore, 91 A. 520, 522-23 (Pa. 1914). Before the Court now is a question of whether the General Assembly overstepped the bounds of this power and violated our Constitution when it enacted [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 3 legislation that allows for universal mail-in voting. For the reasons that follow, we find no constitutional violation, and so we reverse the order of the Commonwealth Court. A. Background The legislation at issue in this case is the Act of October 31, 2019, P.L. 552, No. 77, commonly referred to as “Act 77.” Act 77 effected major amendments to the Pennsylvania Election Code.1 Although its provisions establishing state-wide, universal mail-in voting are the subject of this appeal, see 25 P.S. §§ 3150.11-3150.17, these are only a fraction of the scope of the Act. For instance, Act 77 eliminated the option for straight-ticket voting;2 moved the voter registration deadline from thirty to fifteen days before an election; allocated funding to provide for upgraded voting systems; and reorganized the pay structure for poll workers, along with other administrative changes. Act 77 was an enormously popular piece of legislation on both sides of the aisle. In the state Senate, Act 77 passed 35-14, with Republicans voting 27-0 in favor along with eight Democrats. Charlie Wolfson, Trump Politicized Mail-In Voting in 2020, But it Came to PA with Strong Republican Support, PUBLICSOURCE (Dec. 10, 2020), https://www.publicsource.org/trump-politicized-mail-in-voting-in-2020-pa-republicanssupported-it-originally/. In the state House of Representatives, it passed 138-61, with 105 Republicans and thirty-three Democrats voting in favor of it. Id. As put by Bryan Cutler, Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader at the time, 1 Act of June 3, 1937, P.L. 1333, as amended, 25 P.S. §§ 3150.11-3150.17. 2 This was the subject of intense legislative debate, with Democratic state legislators in favor of preserving the straight-ticket option and Republican state legislators seeking its elimination. See, e.g., House Legislative Journal, Session of 2019, No. 63, at 1706-11 (Oct. 28, 2019). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 4 [Act 77] was not written to benefit one party or the other, or any one candidate or single election. It was developed over a multi-year period, with input from people of different backgrounds and regions of Pennsylvania. It serves to preserve the integrity of every election and lift the voice of every voter in the Commonwealth. House Republican Caucus, Historic Election Reform, http://www.pahousegop.com/electionreform (last visited, July 11, 2022) (quoting Bryan Cutler, then-House Majority Leader). Act 77 was the result of years of careful consideration and debate that began in 2017 with a series of hearings, ultimately spanning twenty-seven months, on the reform and modernization of elections in Pennsylvania. Stephen E. Friedman, Mail-In Voting and the Pennsylvania Constitution, 60 DUQ. L. REV. 1, 6 (2022). With a bi-partisan majority of the General Assembly voting in favor of Act 77, Governor Wolf signed it into law on October 31, 2019. See Press Release, Governor Wolf Signs Historic Election Reform Bill Including New Mail-In Voting (Oct. 31, 2019). With specific regard to the universal mail-in provisions, Act 77 for the first time allowed all qualified voters to cast their vote by mail. Prior to Act 77’s enactment, a voter was required to establish that he or she fit the criteria of an absentee voter to be able to cast a ballot by mail. As we discuss at greater length in this opinion, absentee voting has a long history in the Commonwealth, dating to 1864. At the time of its inception, only otherwise qualified voters who were not present in their election districts on Election Day because of active military duty were allowed to cast an absentee ballot. Both the categories of qualified voters who are permitted to cast absentee ballots and the methods for casting absentee ballots have changed over the intervening century and a half. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 5 However, since 1963, a qualified voter has been able to receive and return an absentee ballot through the mail.3 Act 77’s universal mail-in provisions extended the ability to receive and return a ballot through the mail to the electorate without the excuse of absenteeism. See 25 P.S. §§ 3150.11-3150.17. Act 77 became effective immediately upon its October 31, 2019 enactment, allowing the Department of State and local election boards alike to notify the electorate about universal mail-in voting, which would be available for the April 2020 Primary Election.4 Within months after the passage of Act 77, the COVID-19 pandemic began its spread across the world. See Derrick Bryson Taylor, A Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic, N.Y. TIMES, https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-timeline.html (last visited July 11, 2022). In March 2020, the first cases were detected within this Commonwealth. By April 1, 2020, all Pennsylvania schools were closed, and residents were required to stay at home by order of the Governor. See A Year of COVID-19 In Pennsylvania, pennsylvania. WHTM, https://www.abc27.com/timeline-of-a-year-of-covid-19-in- Among other responses to this unparalleled public health crisis, the General Assembly passed a bill delaying the upcoming Primary Election from April 28 to June 2. See id. Nonetheless, because of the prescient passage of Act 77 in late 2019, the stage in this Commonwealth was set to allow the electorate to exercise the right of suffrage without leaving their homes, should they so choose. And an overwhelming number of Pennsylvanians so chose. In the June 2, 2020 Primary Election, 1,459,555 3 As discussed infra, the return process involves the use of dual envelopes and a voter declaration. 4 Mail-in voting was not available for the November 5, 2019 General Election, which occurred only days after Act 77’s enactment. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 6 mail-in ballots were cast, which represented 51% of all votes cast in that election. PA. DEP’T OF STATE, Pennsylvania 2020 Primary Election Report, at 6, 9, 10 (Aug. 1, 2020). In the November 3, 2020 General Election, 2,648,149 mail-in ballots were cast, representing 38% of the total votes. PA. DEP’T OF STATE, Report on the 2020 General Election, at 12, 20 (May, 14, 2021).5 A “clear partisan split when it came to the method of voting” was soon evident; Joseph R. Biden defeated Donald J. Trump by more than three-to-one among mail-in ballots, while Trump beat Biden by two-to-one among the votes cast in person on Election Day. Pennsylvania Elections – Summary Results, PA. DEP’T OF STATE, https://www.electionreturns.pa.gov/General/SummaryResults?ElectionID=83&ElectionT ype=G (last visited July 11, 2022). The election was officially called in President Biden’s favor on November 24, 2020. See Press Release, Department of State Certifies Presidential Election Results (Nov. 24, 2020). On November 21, 2020, eight petitioners – including a Republican congressman and Republican candidates for the United States House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – filed a petition for review in the Commonwealth Court seeking to halt the certification of the 2020 General Election. The petition for review set forth a facial challenge to the portions of Act 77 that established universal mail-in 5 In the 2021 Primary Election, approximately 26% of the voting electorate cast mail-in ballots, see PA. DEP’T OF STATE, Reporting Center, Reports, 2021 Municipal Primary, Justice of the Supreme Court, Statewide, https://www.electionreturns.pa.gov/ReportCenter/Reports (last visited July 11, 2022), and in the 2021 General Election, approximately 27% voted by mail-in ballot. See PA. DEP’T OF STATE, Report Center, Reports, 2021 Municipal Election, Justice of the Supreme Court, Statewide, https://www.electionreturns.pa.gov/ReportCenter/Reports (last visited July 11, 2022). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 7 voting. In particular, the petitioners argued that the state Constitution requires voters to cast their votes in person on Election Day, except for the voters whom the Constitution excuses from this requirement because of their absentee status. The petitioners sought a declaration that Act 77’s contrary provisions were unconstitutional and void ab initio, as well as an order enjoining the certification of the results of the November 3, 2020 General Election. See Kelly v. Commonwealth, 240 A.3d 1255, 1256 (Pa. 2020), cert. denied sub nom. Kelly v. Pennsylvania, 141 S. Ct. 1449, 209 L. Ed. 2d 171 (2021). The Commonwealth Court granted preliminary relief, enjoining the Commonwealth from certifying the results of the General Election. In response to a request by the named respondents (the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf and Secretary Boockvar), this Court exercised extraordinary jurisdiction over the matter. We found a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing [the] facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment[,]” as the petitioners waited until the ballots from the General Election were in the process of being tallied, and the results were becoming apparent, to raise their claim. Id. at 1256-57. Thus, the Court found the claim barred by the doctrine of laches. In a concurring opinion, Justice Wecht laid bare the petitioners’ want of due diligence, detailing precisely how the claim was ascertainable and could have been raised and fully adjudicated before the June 2020 primary – the first election to occur following Act 77’s enactment, and therefore the first election upon which the electorate relied on its universal mail-in voting – but they inexplicably waited until after the 2020 General Election. See id. at 1258. Having found the petitioners equitably barred from the adjudication of their claims, this Court dismissed their petition with prejudice and vacated [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 8 the Commonwealth Court’s order enjoining the certification of the results of the 2020 General Election. Id. at 1256. The petitioners sought further review via a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. In February 2021, their petition was denied. Kelly v. Pennsylvania, 141 S. Ct. 1449, 209 L. Ed. 2d 171 (2021). B. Procedural History The issue raised in Kelly laid dormant for only a brief time. On July 26, 2021, Appellee Doug McLinko, a member of the Bradford County Board of Elections, filed a petition for review and application for summary relief in the Commonwealth Court raising the same claims that had been advanced in Kelly. McLinko argued that the Pennsylvania Constitution requires a qualified elector to establish residency sixty days before an election in “the election district where he or she shall offer to vote[,]” PA. CONST. art. VII, § 1, and that this Court has definitively construed the term “offer to vote” to mean that the elector must “physically present a ballot at a polling place[;]” in other words, that electors must vote in person at their designated polling place on Election Day. While McLinko acknowledged that Article VII, Section 14(a) of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides an exception to this in-person requirement, he argued that Section 14 provides only narrow exceptions for those who fit its classifications of “absentee.”6 In short, McLinko argued that only electors that meet one of the Section 14(a) exceptions may vote by mail; 6 Section 14(a) provides that a qualified elector may vote by absentee ballot where he is (1) absent from his residence on Election Day because of business or occupation, (2) unable to attend his proper polling place because of illness, disability, or observance of a religious holiday or (3) cannot vote because of his Election Day duties. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 14(a). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 9 and therefore, it would be unlawful for him to certify the universal mail-in ballots. He asked that the Commonwealth Court declare Act 77 unconstitutional and therefore void. Approximately one month later, Pennsylvania State Representative Timothy R. Bonner and thirteen additional Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (collectively “Bonner”)7 filed a petition for review and application for summary relief in the Commonwealth Court, wherein they raised the same Article VII challenges to Act 77’s universal mail-in voting provisions as raised by McLinko. Bonner also raised federal claims, arguing that Act 77 violated the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. See Petition for Review, 8/31/2021, ¶¶ 79-90. The respondents, the Pennsylvania Department of State and the Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth (collectively “Secretary”)8 filed responses and cross-motions for summary relief, in which the Secretary argued that the Appellees’ petitions should be dismissed because they were untimely and barred by the doctrine of laches9 and Section 13 of Act 77, which the Secretary interpreted as vesting exclusive jurisdiction in this Court 7 Joining Bonner are Representatives Timothy F. Twardzik, David H. Zimmerman, P. Michael Jones, Barry J. Jozwiak, Kathy L. Rapp, David Maloney, Barbara Gleim, Robert Brooks, Aaron J. Bernstine, Dawn W. Keefer, Dan Moul, Francis X. Ryan, and Donald Cook. Of these fourteen Appellees, eleven voted in favor of Act 77 (Representatives Jones, Jozwiak, Rapp, Maloney, Gleim, Brooks, Bernstine, Keefer, Moul, Ryan and Cook). Representative Zimmerman voted against Act 77. Representatives Bonner and Twardzik assumed office after the passage of Act 77. 8 At the time these proceedings commenced, the Department of State was led by Acting Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid. In January 2022, Leigh M. Chapman was appointed Acting Secretary of State, and so she has been substituted for former Acting Secretary Degraffenreid. 9 On this point, the Secretary relied upon Kelly, in which, as discussed above, a constitutional challenge to Act 77 was dismissed on the basis of laches. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 10 to hear constitutional challenges to Act 77 and providing that all such challenges were required to be raised within 180 days of the date of Act 77’s enactment. The Commonwealth Court consolidated the petitions for consideration, following which the York County Republican Committee, Washington County Republican Committee, Butler County Republican Committee (“Republican Intervenors”) intervened as petitioners, and the Democratic National Committee and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party (“Democratic Intervenors”) intervened as respondents.10 C. The Commonwealth Court’s Decision On January 28, 2022, the Commonwealth Court denied the Secretary’s procedural challenges and held that Act 77 violates Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. See McLinko v. Dep’t of State, 244 & 293 M.D. 2021, 270 A.3d 1243 (Pa. Commw. 2022) (hereinafter “McLinko”); McLinko v. Dep’t of State, 244 & 293 M.D. 2021, 270 A.3d 1278 (Pa. Commw. 2022) (hereinafter, “Bonner”). Addressing the substantive constitutional challenge first, the Commonwealth Court considered the three sections of Article VII that it found were implicated in this controversy. To begin, the court considered Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states the following: Qualifications of Electors Every citizen 21 years of age, possessing the following qualifications, shall be entitled to vote at all elections subject, however, to such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact. 1. He or she shall have been a citizen of the United States at least one month. 10 The arguments raised by the intervening parties substantially mirror those raised by the principal parties in both the Commonwealth Court and this Court. To avoid redundancy, we discuss the intervenor’s arguments only to the extent they diverge from those of the Appellees and the Secretary. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 11 2. He or she shall have resided in the State 90 days immediately preceding the election. 3. He or she shall have resided in the election district where he or she shall offer to vote at least 60 days immediately preceding the election, except that if qualified to vote in an election district prior to removal of residence, he or she may, if a resident of Pennsylvania, vote in the election district from which he or she removed his or her residence within 60 days preceding the election. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 1. The Commonwealth Court recognized that in Chase v. Miller, 41 Pa. 403, 419 (1862), this Court interpreted the phrase “offer to vote” to mean to appear in person and deliver the ballot to election officials. McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1252 (quoting Chase, 41 Pa. at 419). At issue in Chase was the Military Absentee Act of 1839, which permitted absentee voting by electors in active military service. Because of the limitation imposed by “offer to vote,” the Chase Court determined that the Military Absentee Act impermissibly absolved a group of voters (those in active military service) of a constitutionally required qualification, and therefore that the Act was unconstitutional. The Commonwealth Court observed that this definition was subsequently relied upon in In re Contested Election of Fifth Ward of Lancaster City, 126 A. 199 (Pa. 1924), wherein this Court considered the constitutionality of the 1923 Absentee Voting Act, which expanded the opportunity for absentee voting to include civilians. The Lancaster City Court held that the General Assembly could address voting procedures only in a manner consistent with the “wording of our Constitution,” which, at that time, limited absentee voting to those engaged in active military service. McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1253 (quoting Lancaster City, 126 A. at 200). Because the Constitution did not extend the absentee vote to electors other than those in active military service, the Court found that the 1923 Absentee Voting [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 12 Act violated the Constitution. The Commonwealth Court seized on this Court’s explanation in Lancaster City that the General Assembly may confer voting rights “only upon those designated by the fundamental law, and subject to the limitations therein fixed[,]” and that no matter how admirable the purpose of the 1923 Absentee Voting Act, “an amendment to the Constitution must be adopted permitting this to be done.” Id. (quoting Lancaster City, 126 A. at 201). The court then turned its attention to Article VII, Section 4, which provides as follows: Method of Elections; Secrecy in Voting All elections by the citizens shall be by ballot or by such other method as may be prescribed by law: Provided, That secrecy in voting be preserved. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 4. The Commonwealth Court traced the development of this provision, beginning with the Constitution of 1776, to establish that through the passage of time, language was added to the initial spartan requirement that a vote be cast by ballot to provide that a vote so cast be done in secrecy. See McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1254-57. It characterized the 1901 amendment, which added the phrase “or by such other method as may be prescribed by law; [p]rovided[] that secrecy in voting be preserved” as the measure that “embedded” the requirement for secrecy in our Constitution. Id. at 1256. With regard to the phrase “such other method as prescribed by law,” the Commonwealth Court opined that it was “likely” included to permit the use of voting machines. Id. (citing Lancaster City, 126 A. at 201; People ex rel. Deister v. Wintermute, 86 N.E. 818, 819 (N.Y. 1909)). Finally, the court considered Article, VII Section 14: [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 13 Absentee Voting (a) The Legislature shall, by general law, provide a manner in which, and the time and place at which, qualified electors who may, on the occurrence of any election, be absent from the municipality of their residence, because their duties, occupation or business require them to be elsewhere or who, on the occurrence of any election, are unable to attend at their proper polling places because of illness or physical disability or who will not attend a polling place because of the observance of a religious holiday or who cannot vote because of election day duties, in the case of a county employee, may vote, and for the return and canvass of their votes in the election district in which they respectively reside. (b) For purposes of this section, “municipality” means a city, borough, incorporated town, township or any similar general purpose unit of government which may be created by the General Assembly. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 14. The court explained that the first amendment to our Constitution permitting absentee voting occurred in 1864, in response to the Chase decision, when the electorate amended the Constitution to permit absentee voting by active-duty soldiers. Following this inaugural amendment, the court observed, amendments occurred in 1949, 1957, 1967 and 1985 to expand the class of “qualified electors” who were unable to vote in person. See McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1258-60. From these three provisions, the Commonwealth Court synthesized the following. First, the phrase “offer to vote” requires the physical presence of the elector, as a “ballot cannot be sent by mail or express, nor can it be cast outside of all Pennsylvania election districts and certified into the county where the voter has his domicile.” Chase, 41 Pa. at 419.11 Further, that this “in-person” requirement applies unless an elector falls into an 11 The court found the holdings in Chase and Lancaster City to be clear, direct and binding, and that they leave no room for “modern” adjustment by interpretation. McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1261. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 14 explicit exception thereto, and finally, that an amendment to the Constitution is required before legislation may “be placed on our statute books” to allow qualified electors to be absent from their polling place on Election Day and vote by mail. McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1260 (quoting Lancaster City, 126 A. at 201). The Commonwealth Court found no merit to the Secretary’s argument that Section 4 gives the General Assembly broad authority to enact legislation providing for different methods of voting. The court reasoned that the authority imparted by Section 4 is restricted by the General Assembly’s ability to enact legislation only within the bounds of the Pennsylvania Constitution; thus, it concluded that Section 4 could not be read, as suggested by the Secretary, to authorize a system of universal mail-in voting that would permit voting to occur from any location. The court reiterated its understanding that “such other method” in Section 4 refers merely to an alternative to a paper ballot for use at a polling place. Id. at 1262. In addition, the court explained that Section 4 and Section 14 speak to wholly different concerns, with Section 4 ensuring elections would be conducted free of coercion and fraud, and Section 14 addressing the concern that some electors who are physically unable to “attend at their proper polling places” should not be denied their right to vote. Thus, the court concluded that Act 77 contravenes Article VII, Sections 1 and 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because, in effect, the General Assembly created a new class of voter that could be exempt from the Section 1 qualifications without constitutional authority. Id. at 1262-64. The court then turned to the procedural objections to the petitions for review on the basis that they were untimely. The Commonwealth Court rejected the argument that laches should bar the petitions, distinguishing Kelly on the basis that here the Appellees [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 15 filed their petitions in the summer of 2021, between elections, and sought expedited relief “in sufficient advance” of the November 2021 General Election so that electors would not have their votes disqualified. McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1269; Bonner, 270 A.3d 1278. The Commonwealth Court thus found no such risk in the present cases, given that Appellees sought prospective relief.12 The court next addressed the Secretary’s argument that the petitions should have been dismissed because pursuant to Section 13 of Act 77, the legislature required that challenges to the mail-in voting provisions be brought within 180 days of its enactment. The Commonwealth Court initially questioned the notion that the General Assembly could prevent judicial review of a statute whose constitutionality is challenged, opining that an unconstitutional statute is void ab initio. The court also found that Section 13 of Act 77 does not establish a statute of limitations for instituting a constitutional challenge to Act 77, but rather gave this Court exclusive jurisdiction to hear challenges to the enumerated provisions of Act 77 for the first 180 days after enactment, after which jurisdiction to hear such constitutional challenges reverted to the Commonwealth Court in accordance with the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 761(a)(1). McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1271-72. Having rejected the procedural challenges, the court granted summary relief to the Appellees by declaring that Act 77 violates Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, PA. CONST. art. VII, § 1. In light of the summary relief granted, the Commonwealth Court declined to address Bonner’s federal claims. Bonner, 270 A.3d at 1283 n.12. 12 We include this background for purposes of completeness, although the Secretary does not pursue a challenge to the Commonwealth Court’s ruling regarding laches before this Court. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 16 The Honorable Michael H. Wojcik, joined by the Honorable Ellen Ceisler, disagreed with the finding of unconstitutionality.13 The dissent found that Section 4, by its plain language, empowered the General Assembly to provide for the method of universal mail-in voting. In the dissent’s view, Lancaster City “merely stands for the proposition that the General Assembly may not by statute extend the scope of a method of voting already specifically provided for in [A]rticle VII, [S]ection 14 of the Constitution[,]” but the holding “in no way limits the authority conferred upon the General Assembly by [A]rticle VII, [S]ection 4 to provide for a new and different method of voting such as the universal mail-in ballot provisions of Act 77.” McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1276 (Wojcik, J., concurring and dissenting). The dissent further challenged the majority’s reading of the language in Section 4 that elections shall be by ballot “or such other method as may be prescribed by law” as referring only to the use of voting machines. Such a reading, in the dissent’s view, reduced Section 4 to surplusage because an amendment was made to Article VII, Section 6 specifically to permit the use of voting machines.14 To the dissent, 13 Judge Wojcik filed a concurring and dissenting opinion, as he agreed with the majority regarding the Secretary’s procedural challenges. See McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1273. For the sake of simplicity, we refer to his position as the dissent. 14 Article VII, Section 6 provides the following: All laws regulating the holding of elections by the citizens, or for the registration of electors, shall be uniform throughout the State, except that laws regulating and requiring the registration of electors may be enacted to apply to cities only, provided that such laws be uniform for cities of the same class, and except further, that the General Assembly shall, by general law, permit the use of voting machines, or other mechanical devices for registering or recording and computing the vote, at all elections or primaries, in any county, city, borough, incorporated town or township of the [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 17 the only way to construe Sections 1, 4, and 14 together while giving effect to all provisions is to read Article 4’s “such other method as may be prescribed by law” language as empowering the General Assembly to “provide a distinct method of casting a ballot for those electors who are present in their municipality” during an election. Id. at 1278. The dissent also observed that Section 11 of Act 77 contains a “poison pill” provision, such that the finding of unconstitutionality as to the mail-in voting provisions renders all of Act 77’s provisions void. Id. (citing 25 P.S. § 2602, Note (“Section 11 of [Act 77] provides that ‘Sections 1, 2, 3, 3.2, 4, 5, 5.1, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 of this act are non-severable. If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remaining provisions or applications of this act are void.’”)). Parties on both sides appealed. D. Arguments of the Parties The Secretary challenges the Commonwealth Court’s finding that the universal mail-in voting provisions of Act 77 are unconstitutional and urges this Court to distinguish or overrule the Chase and Lancaster City decisions. See Secretary’s Brief at 4; Commonwealth, at the option of the electors of such county, city, borough, incorporated town or township, without being obliged to require the use of such voting machines or mechanical devices in any other county, city, borough, incorporated town or township, under such regulations with reference thereto as the General Assembly may from time to time prescribe. The General Assembly may, from time to time, prescribe the number and duties of election officers in any political subdivision of the Commonwealth in which voting machines or other mechanical devices authorized by this section may be used. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 6 [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 18 Democratic Intervenors’ Brief at 4-5. The Secretary also contests the determination that Appellees’ claims were not foreclosed as untimely pursuant to Section 13 of Act 77. In their cross appeal, the Bonner Appellees and the Republican Intervenors argue that the Commonwealth Court erred by failing to award relief for the claims it raised under federal law. See Bonner’s Brief at 2; Republican Intervenor’s Brief at 2.15 The Secretary reiterates her challenge to the Commonwealth Court’s jurisdiction to hear the issues raised by the Appellees. As she did before the Commonwealth Court, the Secretary points to Sections 13(2) and (3) of Act 77 to argue that this Court possesses exclusive jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to the universal mail-in voting provisions of Act 77, and that all such challenges were required to be raised within 180 days of Act 77’s enactment. See Secretary’s Brief at 24-26. She supports her position with comments made by members of the General Assembly during Act 77’s inception indicating the intent behind Section 13 was to ensure that certain challenges would be brought within 180 days of enactment so that all such issues would be settled before Act 77 would become effective. Id. at 27-28. It would be absurd, she argues, for the General Assembly to vest this Court with jurisdiction to hear these challenges initially, but to then “pass the jurisdictional baton” to the Commonwealth Court following the passage of time. Id. at 28. The Secretary recognizes that in Delisle v. Boockvar, 234 A.3d 410 (Pa. 2020) 15 On behalf of the Secretary, amicus briefs were filed by the Pennsylvania House and Senate Democratic Caucuses, the Philadelphia County Board of Election, and the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (“AFL-CIO”). Additionally, a number of individuals and Disability Rights Pennsylvania filed amicus briefs on behalf of the Secretary. On behalf of the Appellees, amicus briefs were filed by American First Policy Institute, Landmark Legal Foundation, Citizens United, and Honest Elections Project. In large part, the amici on both sides reiterate the arguments made by the parties. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 19 (per curiam), this Court transferred a constitutional challenge to Act 77 to the Commonwealth Court for disposition because it was filed more than 180 days after the date of Act 77’s enactment. She argues that Delisle is not binding because the challenge there was an as-applied, not a facial, constitutional challenge.16 This distinction is critical, she contends, because the various bases that could give rise to an as-applied challenge cannot be pre-determined, but the bases for a facial challenge are ascertainable upon the enactment of the legislation. As such, it is reasonable for the General Assembly to set a period during which all readily ascertainable facial constitutional challenges may be brought; in this case, 180 days from the date of enactment. Id. at 33-34. Further, the Secretary emphasizes that the per curiam order issued in Delisle lacks the force of precedent, and in that manner, suggests that the Court is free to disregard it entirely. Id. at 34 (citing Commonwealth v. Thompson, 985 A.2d 928, 937 (Pa. 2007)). Appellees respond that the Commonwealth Court’s interpretation of Section 13 was correct. Noting that its decision on this front was unanimous, McLinko asserts that a 180-day limitation to bring constitutional challenges would itself be unconstitutional, and that the Delisle order established that the 180-day period was merely a “window of exclusive jurisdiction.” McLinko’s Brief at 46-47. Bonner agrees that Delisle is instructive and posits that it reveals this Court’s understanding that Section 13(3) is nothing but a limitation on this Court’s exclusive jurisdiction. Bonner’s Brief at 21-22 (quoting Delisle, 234 A.3d at 411 (Wecht, J., concurring)). He argues that it is “absurd” to suggest that the 16 A facial challenge to the constitutionality of a statute is a claim alleging that a statute suffers an “ineluctable constitutional deficiency.” Clifton v. Allegheny Cnty., 969 A.2d 1197, 1229 (Pa. 2009). An as-applied challenge to the constitutionality of a statute is one asserting that the statute, even though it may generally operate constitutionally, is unconstitutional in a challenger’s particular circumstances. See id. at 1224. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 20 General Assembly could preclude challenges to the constitutionality of a statute, as such a measure would violate the separation of powers by limiting the judiciary’s ability to conduct judicial review. Id. at 20, 24-25. The Secretary further challenges the Commonwealth’s Court’s finding that the universal mail-in voting provisions of Act 77 violated Article VII, Section 1. She emphasizes that Section 1’s exclusive purpose is to establish the qualifications for an elector, and she identifies four discrete qualifications therein: the elector must have (1) obtained twenty-one years of age; (2) been a United States citizen for at least one month prior to the election; (3) resided in the Commonwealth for ninety days prior to the election; and (4) resided in the election district in which the elector seeks to vote for sixty days prior to the election. Secretary’s Brief at 40. She draws our attention to both the repeated use of the elector’s residence (both within the Commonwealth and within a particular election district) as a benchmark qualification within these criteria and the omission of an explicit requirement for physical presence at the time of the election. Id. In her view, the language of Section 1 in no way establishes voting in propria persona as a qualification. The Secretary advances multiple arguments against the conclusion that “offer to vote” references a method of voting. First, she directs our attention to Section 4, the very existence of which the Secretary contends precludes the Commonwealth Court’s (and Appellees’) interpretation of Section 1. Id. at 43. The exceedingly broad language of Section 4, according to the Secretary, vitiates the Commonwealth Court’s supposition that the “methods” mentioned therein was referring only to the use of voting machines. Id. at 43-44. The Secretary finds further support for her position in Section 14, which provides that the General Assembly must provide “qualified electors” a manner by which to vote [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 21 when not present in their election districts. Id. at 45. She argues that the Commonwealth Court’s conclusion that in-person voting is itself a qualification that must be met to be deemed a “qualified voter” is in irreconcilable conflict with this language. Id. Taking a closer look at the phrase itself, the Secretary points out that “offer to vote” made its initial appearance in the 1838 Constitution as part of a revision that created the first residency requirement dictating where an elector could cast his ballot. The Secretary points to historical records establishing that the purpose of the residency requirement was to promote election integrity and reduce election fraud, and that it was not contemplated as a measure that would impact the General Assembly’s authority to establish methods of voting. Id. at 49-50. The Secretary reports that other jurisdictions that adopted the same “offer to vote” language into their constitutions when creating residency requirements have determined that this verbiage does not preclude the enactment of legislation that permits mail-in voting. North Carolina provides a succinct example in its explanation that “an offer to vote may be made in writing, and that is what the absent voter does when he selects his ballots and attaches his signature to the form and mails the sealed envelope to proper officials.” Id. at 51 (quoting Jenkins v. State Bd. Of Elections, 104 S.E. 346, 349 (N.C. 1920)). Virginia and Montana also rejected the interpretation adopted by the Commonwealth Court, opining instead that it is contrary to the fundamental rules of construction and the very “rudiments of English” to presume that where there are separate provisions for qualifications and methods, the drafters intermixed those considerations. Id. at 52 (quoting Moore v. Pulliem, 142 S.E. 415, 42122 (Va. 1928); Goodell v. Judith Basin Cnty., 224 P. 1110, 1114 (Mont. 1924)). The Secretary rebuffs the notion, urged by Appellees in the court below, that if Section 1 does [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 22 not contain an “in-person” voting requirement, there was no need for the enactment of Section 14 because Section 14 does not merely permit the General Assembly to devise a method of absentee voting for certain voters, but it requires it to do so. Id. at 54. The Secretary argues that a directive requiring the General Assembly to make absentee voting available to certain voters in no way prohibits it from extending a similar method of voting to others. The Secretary stresses that the Constitution previously provided that the General Assembly “may” devise absentee voting, but that it was changed to “shall” in 1967, “underscore[ing] that [Section] 14 sets a floor for when absentee voting must be allowed; it does not establish a ceiling defining when it is forbidden.” Id. Thus, rather than rendering Section 14 superfluous, the Secretary argues that her interpretation gives Section 14 an essential purpose by providing for the exercise of a constitutional right by particular categories of voters which the General Assembly “must respect and may not take away.” Id. at 55 n.15. Finally, the Secretary challenges the Commonwealth Court’s reliance on the Chase and Lancaster City opinions. Concerning Chase, the Secretary emphasizes the vast difference between the “secure, confidential” mail-in ballot procedures established by Act 77 and the out-of-state, battlefront election districts that were permitted by that statute under review in Chase. Id. at 57-58. She argues that the Commonwealth Court failed to consider Chase in context, choosing instead to isolate its discussion regarding “offer to vote” as used in the 1838 Constitution (which lacked a provision giving the General Assembly discretion to prescribe methods of voting and which does not resemble the Constitution under which Act 77 was devised), and consider the phrase in a vacuum. Id. at 58-59. Because the Commonwealth Court failed to appreciate the material [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 23 differences between the Constitution as it exists today and the Constitution as it existed at the time of Chase, the Secretary maintains that no value can be placed on Chase’s pronouncement regarding “offer to vote.” The Secretary finds related fault in the Lancaster City decision. Although Lancaster City was decided under the 1924 Constitution, which included a provision giving the General Assembly broad authority to authorize methods of voting, the Secretary argues that to the extent the Lancaster City Court considered this provision at all, it incorrectly interpreted it to mean that the General Assembly could only prescribe different methods for the return of ballots from election districts to county officials, while the “offer to vote” must still take place in the election district. Id. at 60 (citing Lancaster City, 126 A. at 201). Once again, the Secretary points to the changes in the Constitution that followed Lancaster City, particularly the 1967 constitutional amendment that required the General Assembly to expand the class of electors who could place absentee votes (the change in Section 14 from “may” to “shall’) to support her argument. Id. at 61-63. She argues that this amendment, the purpose of which was to make voting more accessible, occurred at the same time the General Assembly expanded the scope of voters permitted to vote by absentee ballot beyond the categories provided for in Section 14. The Secretary paints these actions as “entirely consistent with the General Assembly’s constitutional power to enact the mail-in voting provisions of Act 77.” Id. at 63. If this Court were to conclude that Chase and Lancaster City are on point, the Secretary urges the Court to overrule both decisions. Chase, she argues, cannot withstand scrutiny today, as it was “expressly informed by the anti-democratic sentiments [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 24 of its era” that restricted voting to white men; a restriction that the Chase Court embraced and celebrated. Id. at 64. Additionally, she contends that Chase’s consideration of “offer to vote” and the residency requirements is unsupported by any analysis of the text, structure or history of the 1838 Constitution.17 The Secretary faults the Chase Court for failing to engage in such analysis in favor of “prioritiz[ing] the Court’s own policy views regarding how elections ought to be administered” and then summarily asserting that the 17 Article III of the 1838 Constitution provided as follows: Election franchise. Section I. In elections by the citizens, every white freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State one year, and in the election district where he offers to vote, ten days immediately proceeding such election, and within two years paid a State or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least ten days before the election, shall enjoy the rights of an elector. But a citizen of the United States who had previously been a qualified voter of this State, and removed therefrom and returned, and who shall have resided in the election district, and paid taxes, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote after residing in the State six months: Provided, That white freemen, citizens of the United States, between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two years, and having resided in the State one year and in the election district ten days, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote, although they shall not have paid taxes. Elections. Section II. All elections shall be by ballot, except those by persons in their representative capacities, who shall vote viva voce. Electors privilege. Section III. Electors shall, in all cases except treason, felony, and breach or surety of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance on elections, and in going and returning from them. PA. CONST. art. III (1838). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 25 Constitution reflects the same beliefs. Id. at 65.18 Lancaster City extended Chase’s infirmities by adopting its pronouncements. For these reasons, the Secretary calls upon the Court to invoke our sparingly used prerogative to overrule these cases and deny them the force and effect of stare decisis. Id. She reminds us of this Court’s explanation that our “faithfulness to precedent is not sufficient justification to buttress … decisions proven wrong on principle” and that “stare decisis is not a vehicle for perpetuating error, but a legal concept which responds to the demands of justice[.]” Id. at 66 (quoting Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 104 A.3d 328, 352 (Pa. 2014)). The Appellees find no fault in the Commonwealth Court’s interpretation of “offer to vote,” or its reliance on the Chase and Lancaster City decisions. Concerning Section 1, Bonner argues that its qualifications speak not only to who may vote, but also where a voter may vote, and for that reason, “offer to vote” has always been understood as meaning “to present oneself in propria persona.” Bonner’s Brief at 34. Act 77’s universal mail-in voting conflicts with these constitutional requirements by allowing a voter to mail a ballot from anywhere to a county board of election, nullifying both requirements that the vote be made in person and in a particularly designated election district.19 Id. It is Bonner’s position that the only exceptions to the requirement that a vote be cast in person are found in Section 14’s absentee voting provision. He emphasizes that even in the absentee context, Section 14 requires the General Assembly to provide both a time and place for absentee votes to be cast. Id. at 36 (quoting PA. CONST. art VII, § 14). Bonner 18 Again, the Secretary draws our attention to jurisdictions that have rejected the Chase interpretation of “offer to vote” as support for her position that its interpretation is flawed. See Secretary’s Brief at 65. 19 As discussed infra, the laws governing absentee voting permit this very procedure. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 26 argues that because Act 77’s mail-in provisions lack designated times and places for the casting of a ballot, they unconstitutionally expand the scope of absentee voting. Id. Bonner’s argument for the proposition that the “offer to vote” must be made in person absent an exception named in the Constitution is built on Chase and Lancaster City.20 He emphasizes that in Lancaster City, which “reaffirmed” Chase, the Court struck down a statute that purported to extend absentee voting to certain civilians when the only constitutional allowance for absentee voting belonged to those in active military service. Bonner identifies two underlying principles for this holding: the presumption that constitutional amendment allowing for absentee voting was made deliberately and that designating a particular class of electors (those on active military duty) excludes all 20 Appellees bolster their argument with discussion of the 1944 New Mexico case of Chase v. Lujan, 149 P.2d 1003 (N.M. 1944), as an example of another jurisdiction that relied on Chase’s interpretation of “offer to vote” in its constitution. See Bonner’s Brief at 43. 45 n.8. At issue in Lujan was the interpretation of “offer to vote” as the heart of a challenge to a statute that permitted absentee voting for those voters engaged in active United States military or naval service. Rejecting the challenge, the New Mexico Supreme Court pointed to two prior decisions that interpreted “offer to vote” as requiring in-person voting, Thompson v. Scheier, 57 P.2d 293 (N.M. 1936), and Baca v. Ortiz, 61 P.2d 320 (N.M. 1936). Appellees are correct that the Lujan court detailed how, in Thompson, the New Mexico Supreme Court validated its interpretation with citation to two cases from “sister states” that had reached the same conclusion, including Chase. See Lujan, 149 P.2d at 1006-7. However, the Lujan Court referenced Chase and the other state’s interpretations as collateral support to its own analysis, which focused heavily on New Mexico’s jurisprudential history. The Lujan Court considered that at the time New Mexico adopted its constitution, a long-standing territorial law explicitly required the presence of the voter at the polls; it provided, “All votes shall be by ballot, each voter being required to deliver his own vote in person.” Lujan, 149 P.2d at 1004 (quoting L. 1851, p. 196, Code 1915, § 1999)). It further recognized multiple other territorial statutes in effect at the time of the constitution’s adoption that used the phrase “offer to vote.” Id. at 1004-05. It is impossible not to conclude that the law requiring the in-person delivery of a ballot and the statutes already in existence that used “offer to vote” were the bases for the Lujan Court’s interpretation. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 27 others. Id. at 38-39. He urges this Court to follow Chase and Lancaster City and to apply their holdings in this case, as it involves substantially similar facts and constitutional provisions. Id. at 40. He contends that the text of Sections 1 and 4 have remained the same in all relevant ways since the time of Lancaster City, so there is no basis upon which to depart from it at this juncture. Id. at 42-43. Bonner rejects the notion that because the General Assembly changed the language of Section 14 from “may” to “shall,” Section 14 provides a floor for when absentee voting must be permitted. Where the Secretary found significance in the use of “shall” in Section 14, Bonner points to the language of Section 1, which provides that limitations are subject to “laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact,” and argues that “an affirmative ‘shall’ cannot give the legislation more discretion than ‘may.’ ” Id. at 48 (quoting PA. CONST. art VII, § 1). He also cautions that the Secretary’s “floor/ceiling” argument would lead to the conclusion that the amendments to Section 14 that occurred during the twentieth century to expand the categories of absentee voters were unnecessary because the General Assembly could have simply allowed mail-in voting “for any reason, or for no reason at all.” Id. at 49. In essence, Bonner argues that the use of constitutional amendment to expand exceptions to in-person voting in the past proves that all such expansions must be accomplished by constitutional amendment. See id. at 50-53.21 Like Bonner, McLinko argues for adherence to Chase and Lancaster City. He cautions that this Court should not cast aside this “settled law[,] [e]ven if there were doubts See also McLinko’s Brief at 23 (“If [the Secretary’s] interpretation of Article VII is correct, [expansion of absentee voting by constitutional amendment] was a colossal waste of time: [t]he General Assembly possessed the power to expand absentee voting all along.”). 21 [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 28 about the correctness of their holdings[.]” McLinko’s Brief at 15. He contends that the inperson voting requirement first recognized in Chase and later endorsed in Lancaster City should stand because it is easily understood, easily applied and workable. McLinko argues that the Secretary’s request to overrule these cases simply in favor of a “ ‘modern’ interpretation of the Constitution” is not a sufficient basis upon which to do so. Id. at 1617. This is particularly so, McLinko argues, because the Chase and Lancaster City Courts rejected arguments analogous to those advanced by the Secretary presently, as they refused to be swayed by sympathy for the disenfranchised soldiers in favor of hewing to the polestar of dispassionate constitutional interpretation. Id. at 18. He cautions that precedent should not be overturned simply because it would satisfy desired policy objectives. Id. at 24-25. McLinko also mirrors Bonner’s argument that the only exceptions to Section 1’s inperson voting requirement are found in Section 14, and that the change in that section from “may” to “shall” did not transform Section 14 into a “floor” for absentee voting, thereby freeing the General Assembly’s hands to enact Act 77. See id. at 26-35. Rather, McLinko contends that the more reasonable interpretation is to presume that amending Section 14 while leaving Section 1 in place demonstrates the intent to not upset the settled interpretation of Section 1. Id. at 34-36. In his view, Section 4 does not grant the General Assembly “unlimited authority to prescribe election procedures[;]” rather, McLinko argues that the phrase “by ballot or such other method … concerns the medium by which voters may indicate their selections.” Id. at 38 (emphasis in original). Like Bonner, he argues that a contrary reading would obviate the need for Section 14. See id. at 38-40, 45 (“[Section] 4 is limited to allowing voters to indicate their preference through media other [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 29 than paper ballots.”). He further faults the Secretary’s proposed interpretation as inserting language into Section 14 that is not there; specifically, language allowing the General Assembly to “further provide for absentee voting by such other voters as the Legislature shall determine.” Id. at 41 Finally, McLinko argues that the reference in Article VII, Section 6 to voting machines does not support the Secretary’s argument. The purpose of Section 6, he posits, is to establish uniform election and voter registration laws and to provide narrow exceptions to the required uniformity. The “natural and plain meaning” thereof, as far as our inquiry here is concerned, is that the General Assembly must permit the use of different voting equipment in different parts of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding its general requirement for uniformity of election laws. Id. at 44. Thus, McLinko argues, Sections 4 and 6 have separate purposes (methods of voting and uniformity of election laws, respectively), and so no conflict exists. E. The Historical Development of the Implicated Constitutional Provisions Article VII, Sections 1 (“Qualifications of electors”), 4 (“Methods of elections; secrecy in voting”), and 14 (“Absentee voting”) of our Constitution are central players in this contest. The genesis of these provisions and their evolution over time is pertinent to our resolution. 1. Qualifications of Electors & Method of Elections Provisions governing voter qualifications and methods of voting, found today in Sections 1 and 4, have been a part of the fabric of Pennsylvania elections since colonial times. When Pennsylvania was established as a colony, the Royal Charter of 1681 conferred upon William Penn and his successors the power to enact laws “by and with [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 30 the advice, assent, and approbation of the freemen of the province, or the greater part of them, or of their delegates or deputies.” Charles R. Buckalew, AN EXAMINATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA, 191 (1883) (quoting Charter of 1681, § 4). In accordance with this grant of power, the Charter of 1682, §§ 1, 2, 14, 16, 23, authorized the election of members of the Executive Council and Representatives by “freemen” of the province of Pennsylvania. Buckalew, supra, at 191. Those qualified to vote in elections and to run for office at that time, or “freemen,” were defined as follows: That every inhabitant in the said province that is or shall be a purchaser of one hundred acres of land or upwards, his heirs and assigns, and every person who shall have paid his passage and taken up one hundred acres of land at one penny an acre, and have cultivated ten acres thereof, and every person that hath been a servant or bondsman and is free by his service, that shall have taken up his fifty acres of land and cultivated twenty acres thereof, and every inhabitant, artifices, or other resident in the said province that pays scot and lot to the government, shall be deemed and accounted a freeman of the said province; and every such person shall and may be capable of electing or being elected representatives of the people in Provincial Council or General Assembly in the said province. Id. (quoting Charter of 1682, § 2). In a separate provision, the Charter of 1682 provided that “all elections of members, or representatives of the people … shall be resolved and determined by the ballot.”22 Charter of 1682, § 20. In 1696, Governor William Markham set forth further eligibility requirements for “freemen” to be able to vote in elections: 22 While the early Pennsylvania charters required the use of some form of paper ballot, there has been some suggestion that at that time “paper ballots were not generally used, beans and viva voce voting being used instead.” Joseph P. Harris, ELECTION ADMINISTRATION IN THE UNITED STATES, 16 (1934). However, by “1706 a statute was adopted in Pennsylvania which rigidly required the use of paper ballots.” Id. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 31 And, to the end it may be known who those are, in this province and territories, who ought to have right of, or to be deemed freemen to choose, or be chosen, to serve in Council and Assembly, as aforesaid, Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no inhabitant of this province or territories, shall have right of electing, or being elected as aforesaid, unless they be free denizens of this government, and are of the age of twenty-one years, or upwards, and have fifty acres of land, ten acres whereof being seated and cleared, or be otherwise worth fifty pounds, lawful money of this government, clear estate, and have been resident within this government for the space of two years next before such election. Buckalew, supra, at 191-92 (quoting Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania of 1696). Five years later, the General Assembly approved the Charter of Privileges of 1701, which “continued to be the fundamental law of the province until the Declaration of Independence and substitution therefor of the Constitution of 1776.” Id. at 192. Through the 1701 Charter it was provided that no inhabitants of the province shall have right of election or being elected unless he or they be native-born subjects of Great Britain, or be naturalized in England or in this province, and unless such person or persons be of the age of twentyone years or upwards, and be a freeholder or freeholders in this province, have fifty acres of land, or more, well settled, and twelve acres thereof cleared and improved, or be otherwise worth forty pounds lawful money of the province, clear estate, and have been resident therein for the space of two years before such election. Id. at 192-93.23 Thus, throughout colonial times, Pennsylvania’s governing charters meticulously detailed the qualifications necessary to be eligible to vote, disconnected from any requirements concerning the method or manner of voting. The Charter of Privileges of 1701 did not contain this language; but rather stated “[t]hat the qualifications of electors and elected … shall be and remain as by a law of this government, made at New Castle, in the year 1700, entitled ‘An Act to ascertain the 23 [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 32 Following the colonies’ declaration of their independence from Great Britain, Pennsylvania adopted its first Constitution, the Constitution of 1776, which provided therein: Every freeman of the full age of twenty-one years, having resided in this state for the space of one whole year next before the day of election for representatives, and paid public taxes during that time, shall enjoy the right of an elector: Provided always, That sons of freeholders of the age of twenty-one years shall be entitled to vote, although they have not paid taxes. PA. CONST. ch. II, § 6 (1776). In a separate provision, the 1776 Constitution provided that “[a]ll elections … shall be by ballot, free and voluntary[.]” Id. ch. II, § 32. With the adoption of the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitution,24 the drafters for the first time created a standalone article governing elections. Article III of the 1790 Constitution was untitled and contained three provisions. See PA. CONST. art. III, §§ 1-3 (1790). The first set forth the qualifications of eligible voters as follows: In elections by the citizens, every freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the state two years next before the election, and within that time paid a state or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least six months before the election, shall enjoy the rights of an elector: Provided, that the sons of persons qualified as aforesaid, between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two years, shall be entitled to vote, although they shall not have paid taxes. PA. CONST. art. III, § 1 (1790). The second provision, once again separate from the qualifications of voters, required that “[a]ll elections shall be by ballot, except those by number of members of Assembly and to regulate elections.’” Buckalew, supra, at 192 (quoting Charter of Privileges of 1701). Buckalew’s historical analysis led him to conclude that the Charter was referencing the language cited above. Id. at 192-93. 24 Constitutional Conventions resulted in the Constitutions of 1790, 1838, 1874, and 1968. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 33 persons in their representative capacities, who shall vote viva voce.” Id. § 2. The third exempted voters from arrest while voting. Id. § 3. The next amendments occurred following the Constitutional Convention of 1837 (giving rise to what is commonly referred to as the Constitution of 1838), and it was here that the phrase “offer to vote” made its first appearance. The phrase was suggested by Emmanuel Reigart, a delegate from Lancaster County, during the Convention. Reigart proposed amending the language of Article III, Section 1 of the 1790 Constitution by inserting the phrase, “and shall have resided in the district in which he shall offer to vote, at least ten days immediately preceding such election” after the words “before the elections.” 9 John Agg, PROCEEDINGS COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA TO AND DEBATES OF THE PROPOSE AMENDMENTS CONVENTION TO THE OF THE CONSTITUTION, COMMENCED AT HARRISBURG, ON THE SECOND DAY OF MAY 1837, 296 (1838). This proposal marked the first election district residency requirement, as all previous iterations of Pennsylvania’s governing charter only required that a qualified elector reside in the state or, prior thereto, the colony. See Charter of 1682, § 2; Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania of 1696; Charter of Privileges of 1701; PA. CONST. ch. II, § 6 (1776); PA. CONST. art. III, § 1 (1790). As a result, until the amendment that arose from the 1837 Constitutional Convention, there was no restriction limiting where in the Commonwealth an elector could vote. Records from the Constitutional Convention reveal that one purpose underlying the proposed election district residency requirement was the belief that “[t]hose who resided in a particular district[] were the persons who ought alone to be entitled to vote in that district, because they were the persons to be affected by the [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 34 election in that district.” 9 Agg, at 309 (quoting Delegate James Biddle). Delegate Reigart viewed his proposed language as “settl[ing] the difficulty as to residence.” Id. at 296. As a result of Delegate Reigart’s proposal, Article III, Section 1 of the 1838 Constitution was amended to provide the following with respect to voter qualifications: In elections by the citizens, every white freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State one year, and in the election district where he offers to vote, ten days immediately proceeding such election, and within two years paid a State or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least ten days before the election, shall enjoy the rights of an elector. But a citizen of the United States who had previously been a qualified voter of this State, and removed therefrom and returned, and who shall have resided in the election district, and paid taxes, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote after residing in the State six months: Provided, That white freemen, citizens of the United States, between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two years, and having resided in the State one year and in the election district ten days, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote, although they shall not have paid taxes. PA. CONST. art III, § 1 (1838). The title of this section was “Election franchise.” Id. Thus, the recorded history establishes that the sole reason for the inclusion of the phrase “offer to vote” was to capture the election district residency requirement. Article III, Section 2 remained unchanged, providing that “[a]ll elections shall be by ballot” except for those voting in representative capacities. PA. CONST. art III, § 2 (1838). Consistent with colonial charters and Commonwealth constitutional history, nothing in the recorded procedures of the constitutional convention resulting in the 1838 Constitution suggests the intent to intermingle qualifications of voters with the method of voting. In 1874, Article III was renumbered to Article VIII, and the number of its provisions expanded exponentially. See PA. CONST. art. VIII, §§ 1-17 (1874). The three provisions (establishing voter qualifications, providing that voting be done by ballot, and prohibiting [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 35 the arrest of electors while voting) that had sufficed since 1790 to govern elections grew to include, inter alia, provisions establishing that those in actual military service may vote absentee in the manner “as are or shall be prescribed by law[;]” 25 that election laws are to be uniform but that no elector shall be deprived of the privilege of voting for failing to register;26 and that political subdivisions shall be formed or divided into election districts.27 Each provision within the new Article VIII was titled, with the sections regarding qualifications and voting methods being labeled respectively, “Qualifications of voters,” and “Elections by ballot.” PA. CONST. art VIII, §§ 1, 4 (1874). The article housing these provisions was given the title “Of Suffrage and Elections.” PA. CONST. art VIII (1874). Further amendments were made in 1901, three of which are particularly significant for our present purposes. The first modified then-Article VIII, Section 4 from stating that elections “shall be by ballot” to providing that “[a]ll elections by the citizens shall be by ballot or by such other method as may be prescribed by law: Provided, That secrecy in voting be preserved.” PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 4 (1874) (amended in 1901) (emphasis added). By its terms, this amendment of Section 4 gave the General Assembly the authority to devise methods of voting, subject to secrecy requirements. The second and third relevant amendments, found in Sections 1 and 7, subjected qualified electors to registration laws and required that laws regulating the registration of electors must be uniform. PA. CONST. art. VIII, §§ 1, 7 (1874) (amended in 1901). In fact, however, a proliferation of registration laws predated the constitutional amendment requiring such 25 PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 6 (1874). 26 PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 7 (1874). 27 PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 11 (1874). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 36 laws. The Registry Act of 1869 set forth requirements for voter registration, allowing electors to prove their qualifications prior to Election Day, thereby having their information entered onto a voter registration list. See Act of April 17, 1869, No. 38, P.L. 49. While this requirement was not a part of the Constitution at that time, this Court in Patterson v. Barlow, 60 Pa. 54 (1869), found the Registry Act of 1869 to be constitutional. In so doing, the Patterson Court reasoned that registration laws that allowed electors to demonstrate that they were qualified prior to Election Day were fully within the legislature’s powers “to prescribe the evidence of the identity and the qualifications of the voters.” Id. at 83. “The essential purpose of a registration law is that the qualifications of electors may be determined at some period in advance of the election, and that a list of such electors may be made, which shall be binding upon the election officers upon election day.” Thomas Raeburn White, COMMENTARIES ON THE CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA, 356 (1907). 2. Absentee Voting Constitutionally permitted absentee voting in Pennsylvania dates to 1864. 28 This first iteration of absentee voting, which was available only to active-duty military voters 28 The constitutional amendment provided as follows: Whenever any of the qualified electors of this commonwealth shall be in any actual military service under a requisition from the President of the United States or by the authority of this commonwealth, such electors may exercise the right of suffrage in all elections by the citizens, under such regulations as are or shall be prescribed by law, as fully as if they were present at their usual place of election. PA. CONST. art. III, § 4 (1838) (amended in 1864) (emphasis added). As the bolded language demonstrates, and as will be discussed further in this Opinion, this amendment remedied what the Chase Court identified as the fatal defect in the statute under its review by ensuring that the General Assembly, not military commanders, established all regulations related to the military absentee vote. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 37 who were absent from their election districts, see Act of August 25, 1864, No. 871, P.L. 990, involved an intricate procedure. A captain’s or officer’s quarters would be designated as the voting location, where the soldier would appear before the judge of election. At that location, the election judge would examine the soldier’s qualifications to vote within the district for which he sought to vote. If satisfied, the soldier would fill out his “ticket” and return it to the judge of election before Election Day, who would deposit it into the ballot box. With the vote thus cast, the election judge would record the voter’s information, including his election district, in the corresponding poll book. Once the poll closed, the election judge and his clerks would open the ballot box and tally the votes by hand. The election judges would then mail each poll book and the “tickets” recorded to each election district. There was an exception for soldiers whose duties made it impossible for them to appear at their designated military poll on the designated day. These soldiers could, before Election Day, seal their completed ballot in an envelope and provide a written statement containing their names and election districts, and designating a fellow qualified voter within their election district to cast their ballot. On Election Day, this designated representative would bring the envelope and written grant of authority to cast the absentee ballot to the election district’s polling location, where an election official would open the envelope in view of the election board and the representative would swear an oath that he had not tampered with the ballot. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 38 In 1951, this procedure was radically altered and permitted absentee voters to return ballots by mail.29 By this time, absentee voting was an option available to active military and disabled or injured veterans. The absentee voter applied to the Secretary of the Commonwealth for an absentee ballot. This application could be made by mail at any time preceding Election Day, but the ballot was required to be completed prior to Election Day. Once the voter received the ballot, he would appear before any person authorized to administer oaths under state, federal, or military law in order to complete the ballot. The voter first would display the ballot to this person to establish that it was unmarked. The voter would then fill out the ballot in the presence of this official, but in such a way that the official could not see the voter’s selections. The voter then folded the absentee ballot and placed it in an envelope marked “Official Military Ballot” before sealing it in a second envelope. The second envelope bore an affidavit on the outside, which the voter and the oath-administrator executed. The voter then mailed their ballot to their county board of elections. If voters were in active military service but present in their election districts on Election Day, they would follow this procedure but had the option to deliver the completed ballot, in its sealed envelopes, to the district’s judge of elections. In 1963, when the absentee vote had been expanded to include people who would be absent from their election districts because of their “duty, business, or occupation,” or unable to appear at their polling location because of physical disability or illness, this 29 Although the General Assembly had previously attempted to create a mail-in voting procedure in 1923 to include non-military civilians absent from their districts on Election Day due to their duties, business or occupations, see Act of May 22, 1923, No. 201, P.L. 313, this Court invalidated that system in Lancaster City, which will be addressed in further detail later in this Opinion. It was in 1951 that the General Assembly first created a mail-in voting procedure for those absentee voters expressly enumerated in the Constitution. See Act of March 6, 1951, No. 1, P.L. 11-12, 16-17. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 39 procedure was again refined. See Act of April 29, 1963, No. 379, P.L. 738. Absentee voters would still apply for their ballots prior to Election Day, but the General Assembly eliminated the requirement to appear before an oath taker to complete the ballot. In its place, the General Assembly provided that the voter complete the ballot in secret before sealing it in an envelope marked “Official Absentee Ballot.” This envelope was then placed in a second envelope that had a declaration on the front with the voter’s information. The absentee voter could return the envelope through the mail or in person at the county board of election. This method of absentee voting has remained in place since that time. As noted above, prior to 1963, absentee voting was available to those engaged in active military service, disabled veterans, those who would be absent from their election districts because of their “duties, business or occupation,” and “illness or physical disability.” PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 18 (1874) (amended in 1949); PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 19 (1874) (amended in 1957).30 In 1963, the General Assembly expanded these categories to include the spouses of those in military service by legislative enactment. Act of August 30 The constitutional provision addressing absentee voting has been amended several times. In 1967, there were three such amendments. First, the constitutional amendments authorizing active military members and injured military veterans to vote absentee were both repealed. Second, the article governing elections had been renumbered from Article VIII to Article VII, moving the absentee voting provision to its current place in Article VII, Section 14. Third, the provision was amended to change the operative verb from “may” to “shall,” requiring the legislature to provide a method of voting for those enumerated categories of absentee voters. Article VII, Section 14 was then further amended to extend absentee voting to those who could not vote in person due to a religious holiday or Election Day duties. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 14 (1968) (amended in 1985). Lastly, in 1997, Section 14 was amended to change “State or county” to “municipality” and added subsection (b) defining “municipality.” PA. CONST. art. VII, § 14 (1968) (amended in 1997). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 40 13, 1963, P.L. 707, § 20, effective Jan. 1, 1964; see also 25 P.S. § 3146.1(b). In 1968, the General Assembly further expanded the use of voting by mail by extending it to those vacationing on Election Day and their spouses, as well as the spouses of the persons absent because of their duties, business or occupation.31 Act of December 11, 1968, P.L. 1183, No. 375, §§ 1 to 3; 25 P.S. § 2602(z.3). F. Analysis 1. Timeliness of the Constitutional Challenge The Secretary’s assertion that Section 13 is a statutory time bar that precludes this challenge to the constitutionality of Act 77 presents a matter of statutory interpretation, over which our standard of review is de novo and our scope of review is plenary. O’Donnell v. Allegheny Cnty. North Tax Collection Comm., 266 A.3d 2, 16 (Pa. 2021). “The paramount goal of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the intentions of the General Assembly.” Commonwealth by Shapiro v. Golden Gate Nat’l Senior Care LLC, 194 A.3d 1010, 1027 (Pa. 2018) (citing 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(a)). Regarding any duly enacted legislation, we presume that the General Assembly does not intend to violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, nor intend an absurd or unreasonable result. 1 Pa.C.S. § 1922(3); Robinson Twp. v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901, 943 (Pa. 2013). Section 13 provides as follows: (1) This section applies to the amendment or addition of the following provisions of the act: (i) Section 102. (ii) Section 1003(a). (iii) Section 1007(b). (iv) Section 1107. (v) Section 1110. 31 The Appellees do not challenge these legislative enactments as unconstitutional. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 41 (vi) Section 1107–A. (vii) Section 1109–A. (viii) Section 1112–A(a). (ix) Section 1216(d). (x) Section 1222(a) and (b). (xi) Section 1223. (xii) Section 1231. (xiii) Section 1232. (xiv) Section 1233. (xv) Section 1302. (xvi) Section 1302.1. (xvii) Section 1302.2. (xviii) Section 1305. (xix) Section 1306. (xx) Section 1308. (xxi) Article XIII–D. (2) The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear a challenge to or to render a declaratory judgment concerning the constitutionality of a provision referred to in paragraph (1). The Supreme Court may take action it deems appropriate, consistent with the Supreme Court retaining jurisdiction over the matter, to find facts or to expedite a final judgment in connection with such a challenge or request for declaratory relief. (3) An action under paragraph (2) must be commenced within 180 days of the effective date of this section. Act of October 31, 2019, P.L. 552, No. 77, § 13. As the parties’ competing interpretations establish, there is arguable ambiguity in Section 13. Yet, reading Section 13 in a manner that would result in the insulation of the sections of Act 77 listed in Section 13(1) from judicial review following the expiration of the 180-day period set forth in Section 13(3) contravenes the rules of statutory construction, as such an interpretation leads to the conclusion that the provision is unconstitutional; a result that is to be avoided. See 1 Pa.C.S. § 1922(3); Working Fams. Party v. Commonwealth, 209 A.3d 270, 279 (Pa. 2019) (“[S]tatutes are to be construed whenever possible to uphold their constitutionality.”). Precluding review in this manner [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 42 would violate the separation of powers, as “[i]t is the province of the Judiciary to determine whether the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth require or prohibit the performance of certain acts.” Robinson Twp., 83 A.3d at 927 (internal quotations omitted); see also William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep’t of Educ., 170 A.3d 414, 418 (Pa. 2017) (finding that the legislature cannot “conclusively determine for the people and for the courts that what it enacts in the form of law … is consistent with the fundamental law”). If Section 13 were intended to foreclose judicial review, the General Assembly would be barring this Court from considering constitutional challenges to legislation pursuant to its King’s Bench or extraordinary jurisdiction powers. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 726. The General Assembly has no constitutional authority to bar this Court from exercising its jurisdiction in such circumstances. Construing this section in the manner proposed by the Secretary would render Section 13 unconstitutional. Moreover, this question was implicitly decided in Kelly, as that facial challenge was brought outside of the timeframe specified in Section 13(3). Our decision was based on the doctrine of laches and not a statutory bar to our jurisdiction. A lack of jurisdiction would have prohibited this Court’s consideration of the matter, and as such, would have required the sua sponte application of the bar and dismissal. See Bisher v. Lehigh Valley Health Network, Inc., 265 A.3d 383, 399 (Pa. 2021) (explaining that subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, even by a court sua sponte if necessary); Burger v. Sch. Bd. of McGuffey Sch. Dist., 923 A.2d 1155, 1161 (Pa. 2007) (“A jurisdictional challenge is typically a threshold question, with review of the substantive issues following a jurisdictional question only if the court is found to possess jurisdiction.”). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 43 The Secretary’s argument that Section 13 applies only to facial challenges, as opposed to as-applied constitutional challenges, is not supported by the language of that provision. See Secretary’s Brief at 22-31. Facial and as-applied constitutional challenges are distinct animals, and their differences often mean that they are subject to different standards and principles. See Lehman v. Pa. State Police, 839 A.2d 265, 275 (Pa. 2003) (distinguishing between as-applied and facial constitutional challenges when applying exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine); Kepple v. Fairman Drilling Co., 615 A.2d 1298, 1303 & n.3 (Pa. 1992) (distinguishing between facial and as-applied constitutional challenges for purposes of providing notification to Attorney General pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 521(a)); Commonwealth v. Noel, 857 A.2d 1283, 1288 (Pa. 2004) (Saylor, J., concurring) (discussing difference between as-applied and facial voidfor-vagueness claims under First Amendment of U.S. Constitution). However, here, we need not look any further than the plain language of the statute, which offers no distinction between facial and as-applied constitutional challenges. It merely states that this Court had jurisdiction to “hear a challenge to or to render a declaratory judgment concerning the constitutionality of a provision” enumerated therein. Act of October 31, 2019, P.L. 552, No. 77, § 13(2) (emphasis added). We may not disregard the plain language of the statute, and we may not read language into it that was not included by the General Assembly. As intimated by the Delisle per curiam order and our consideration of Kelly, we find that a holistic reading of Section 13 compels the conclusion that Section 13(3) is not a time bar, but rather, that it – in conjunction with Section 13(2) – vested exclusive original jurisdiction in this Court to hear challenges to the provisions enumerated in subsection [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 44 (1) for the first 180 days after enactment, and that thereafter, original jurisdiction over all such challenges reverted to the Commonwealth Court, pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 761(a)(1). See Delisle v. Boockvar, 234 A.3d 410, 411 (Pa. 2020) (per curiam). Under this construction, the Appellees timely filed their petitions in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction, and following the Secretary’s appeal, the action is properly within this Court’s jurisdiction pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 723(a). 2. Constitutionality of Act 77’s Universal Mail-In Voting Provisions The substantive question before this Court is whether the Commonwealth Court erred in concluding that Act 77’s universal mail-in voting provisions are unconstitutional. Acts passed by the General Assembly enjoy a strong presumption of constitutionality, and a challenging party bears a very heavy burden of persuasion. Stilp v. Commonwealth, Gen. Assembly, 974 A.2d 491, 495 (Pa. 2009). A statute must violate an express or clearly implied prohibition in the Constitution before it will be held unconstitutional. Russ v. Commonwealth, 60 A. 169, 172 (Pa. 1905); Sharpless v. Mayor of Philadelphia, 21 Pa. 147, 164 (1853) (explaining that legislation is void “only when it violates the constitution clearly, palpably, plainly; and in such manner as to leave no doubt or hesitation on our minds.”). If any doubt arises, it is resolved in favor of the constitutionality of the legislation. Russ, 60 A.at 172. The overarching basis for this constitutional challenge is the Chase Court’s interpretation of the term “offer to vote,” which it interpreted to mean that a vote must be cast in person. Chase, 41 Pa. at 419 (“To ‘offer to vote’ by ballot, is to present oneself, with proper qualifications, at the time and place appointed, and to make manual delivery of the ballot[.]”). The phrase has appeared in all iterations of the elections article of our [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 45 Charter since 1838 including its current version. We must determine whether the current version of Article VII mandates the imposition of the Chase Court’s definition of “offer to vote.” a. The Chase and Lancaster City Decisions Chase, decided in 1862, involved a contested election for the district attorney of Luzerne County. After counting what the return judges deemed to be “legal votes,” the election was called for Chase. Thereafter, twenty electors filed a complaint alleging not only that a large number of votes within the county were fraudulent, but also that the return judges wrongfully excluded votes that were cast by qualified voters fighting in the Civil War, as permitted by Section 43 of the Military Absentee Act of 1839 (“Section 43”).32 This provision provided: Whenever any of the citizens of this Commonwealth, qualified as hereinbefore provided, shall be in any actual military service in any detachment of the militia or corps of volunteers under a requisition from the President of the United States, or by the authority of this Commonwealth, on the day of the general election, such citizens may exercise the right of suffrage at such place as may be appointed by the commanding officer of the troop or company to which they shall respectively belong, as fully as if they were present at the usual place of election: Provided, That no member of any such troop or company shall be permitted to vote at the place so appointed, if at the time of such election he shall be within ten miles of the place at which he would be entitled to vote if not in the service aforesaid. Chase, 41 Pa. at 416 (quoting Act of July 2, 1839, No. 192, P.L. 528, § 43). The excluded “army vote,” as the opinion refers to it, was outcome determinative because while the votes cast within the county placed Chase ahead of Miller, after the 420 votes received Act of July 2, 1839, P.L. 770. The 1839 act was “virtually a reprint” of the Military Absentee Act of 1813, Act of March 29, 1813, 6 Smith’s Laws. Chase, 41 Pa. at 416. 32 [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 46 from active-duty soldiers were counted, Miller finished ahead of Chase by 139 votes. Id. at 415. Beyond its grievance that the “army vote” was excluded, the complaint contained no details about these military ballots, such as the names of the military voters or the locations in which the votes were cast. Id. at 414. Chase asserted that the election officials would be wrong to count the ballots cast pursuant to Section 43. Id. at 414. Before the lower court, the parties stipulated to the following facts to serve as the basis for the court’s decision: Admitted that of the votes polled within the county of Luzerne, Ezra B. Chase received 5811 votes, and that Jerome G. Miller received 5646, and that the said number of votes by each received be counted by the court as legal votes. That of the votes polled by the volunteers in the army, Ezra B. Chase received 58 votes, Jerome G. Miller received 362 votes. But the legality of the votes polled by the volunteers in the army not being admitted, the question as to the legal effect thereof is submitted as a matter of law for the court. If the court should be of opinion that the army vote is constitutional and legal, the same to be allowed by the court, and added to the vote cast in the county for the party or parties in whose favour they may be, and then the court to decree in favour of the party having the greatest number of votes. If no part of the army vote is received, the decree to be in favour of Mr. Chase, the army vote being taken as above stated, the objections to it being all waived, except as to its constitutionality. Id. at 414-15. The lower court determined, on these facts alone, that the army vote was legal and all such ballots should be counted. Id. at 415.33 33 On review, the Chase Court refused to rule based on the stipulated facts. Rather, the Court noted that these facts, even when read in conjunction with the allegations in the complaint, were insufficient to support the lower court’s determination because they failed to establish who the “army vote” electors were; whether they were residents of Luzerne County serving in military detachments; where they voted; and whether the voting locations were within ten miles of their customary voting location. Id. at 415-16. The Court concluded that even when reading the complaint and the stipulated facts together, “we cannot learn in what state the votes were cast[,]” and that the “reasonable [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 47 The Court addressed the genesis of Section 43, explaining that it was “virtually a reprint” of the Act of March 29, 1813, which permitted electors in active military service who were two miles from their customary voting location to vote elsewhere. The Court opined that in neither Section 43 nor its predecessor did the General Assembly intend to authorize voting beyond the Commonwealth’s borders, but rather, that it “probably meant” to allow only the elector who is in active military service within the state an opportunity to vote. This absentee voting within the Commonwealth was permissible under the Constitution of 1790 (which was in effect at the time of the 1813 Act) because the Constitution of 1790 contained no election district residency requirement. Id. at 417. The Court observed that the Military Absentee Act was drafted during this time period but languished for five years. The Military Absentee Act was ultimately passed after the changes to the Constitution in 1838, but without consideration of the effect of the amendments made thereto. Id. The Court then took up the question that the General Assembly failed to consider: whether the provision of the Military Absentee Act that authorized military commanders to appoint “places” at which qualified voters in acting military service may exercise their right to vote could be reconciled with Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution of 1838. Id. at 418. The Court’s exhaustive discussion of Article III of the 1838 Constitution focused on the requirement that voting occur within an election district. See id. at 418-20. At the time of Chase, Article III, Section 1 provided the following: In elections by the citizens, every white freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State one year, and in the election district where he offers to vote, ten days presumption” was that votes were cast “partly within and partly without” the Commonwealth. Id. at 416. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 48 immediately preceding such election, and within two years paid a State or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least ten days before the election, shall enjoy the rights of an elector. But a citizen of the United States who had previously been a qualified voter of this State, and removed therefrom and returned, and who shall have resided in the election district, and paid taxes, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote after residing in the State six months: Provided, That white freemen, citizens of the United States, between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two years, and having resided in the State one year and in the election district ten days, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote, although they shall not have paid taxes. PA. CONST. art. III, § 1 (1838) (emphasis added). The Court emphasized that this provision differed from its forebearer in three ways: “The word ‘white’ was introduced before ‘freemen,’ excluding thereby negro suffrage, which had prevailed to a slight extent. The state residence was reduced from two years to one, and the words requiring a residence in the election district where he offers to vote, were added.” Chase, 41 Pa. at 418. The sole purpose of the amendment, according to the Chase Court, was to prevent fraud in voting, see id. at 419,34 and the balance of the Court’s efforts are thereafter directed at explaining how the election district residency requirement served that end. The Court addressed the “offer to vote” language in conjunction with then-Article III, Section 2:35 34 The record reflects an additional reason was to require electors to exercise the franchise where the vote would make a difference to their lives. See supra pp. 34-35. 35 At the time Chase was decided, Article III, Section 2 provided as follows: All elections shall be by ballot, except those by persons in their representative capacities, who shall vote viva voce. PA. CONST. art. III, § 2 (1838). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 49 [T]he citizen, possessing the other requisite qualification, is to have a ten days’ residence in an election district, and is to offer his ballot in that district. The second section of this article requires all popular elections to be by ballot. To “offer to vote” by ballot is to present oneself, with proper qualifications, at the time and place appointed, and to make manual delivery of the ballot to the officers appointed by law to receive it. Id. Personal appearance was critical, the Court reasoned, because it provided the mechanism by which to validate a voter’s qualifications: The ballot cannot be sent by mail or express,[36] nor can it be cast outside of all Pennsylvania election districts and certified into the county where the voter has his domicil. We cannot be persuaded that the constitution ever contemplated any such mode of voting, and we have abundant reason for thinking that to permit it would break down all the safeguards of honest suffrage. The constitution meant, rather, that the voter, in propria persona, should offer his vote in an appropriate election district, in order that his neighbours might be at hand to establish his right to vote if it were challenged, or to challenge if it were doubtful. 36 During the Civil War, Americans had come to depend on the postal service to hear news from those fighting on the frontlines, see UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, The United States Postal Service: An American History, at 28 (2020), https://about.usps.com/publications/pub100.pdf (“USPS”). Although many soldiers were at war in their own backyards, they naturally could not return to their homes while the fighting ensued. Mail became a “treasured link between camps and battlefields and ‘back home.’” Id. at 18. While the Pennsylvania legislature had made a method of absentee voting available to soldiers since 1813, it was during the Civil War era that challenges to absentee voting had become more prevalent throughout the country, as other states had begun enacting their own absentee voting laws so that soldiers were not disenfranchised by serving in the military. See Voting Integrity Project, Inc. v. Keisling, 259 F.3d 1169, 1175 (9th Cir. 2001) (“Absentee voting began during the Civil War as a means of providing soldiers the ability to vote.”). Thus, a moderately reliable postal service was a recent phenomenon during the Civil War, when Chase was decided. However, even at that time, the mail was not reaching significant portions of the population, as the postal service would not begin free rural mail delivery for another thirty years after Chase. USPS, supra at 7, 31. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 50 Id. This underlying rationale echoes throughout the opinion. See id. at 424 (rejecting Section 43 because, inter alia, “it invites soldiers to vote where the evidence of their qualifications is not at hand”); id. at 427 (explaining “to secure purity of election, [the Constitution] would have its voters in the place where they are best known on election day”). The authoring Justice’s interpretation of “offer to vote” and the conclusions drawn from it failed to take into account that Article III, Section 1 twice used the phrase “entitled to vote” and not “entitled to offer to vote” when referring to the exceptions to the residency qualifications. Although it expounded on the meaning of “offer to vote,” the clear target of the Court’s attention in Chase was that the Military Absentee Act permitted voting in locations other than in duly created legislative election districts.37 This is evident upon consideration of the opinion as a whole, which focuses on the amendment of Article III, Section I requiring that an elector vote in his election district. Its ultimate conclusion regarding Section 1 makes this point: The meaning of the constitutional clause under consideration may, therefore, on the whole, be stated thus--every white freeman, twenty-one years of age, having “resided” according to the primary meaning of that word, or according to legislative definition of it, in any “election district” created by or under the authority of the legislature, for ten days preceding the election, shall be permitted to offer his ballot in that district. 37 One of the faults the Chase Court found with Section 43 was that it purported to authorize military commanders to establish de facto election districts. The Court explained that as the Constitution assigned the creation of election districts to the legislature, the designation of election districts is a matter of civil administration, which cannot be delegated to the military. Chase, 41 Pa. at 422. To do so would “confound the first principles” of our government found in the Constitution, which sharply divide the civil and military powers and command that “the military shall, in all cases and at all times, be in strict subordination to the civil power[.]” Id. Because a military commander cannot create an election district, and the Constitution required voting to occur in an voter’s election district, none of the votes cast pursuant to Section 43 were valid. Id. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 51 Id. at 421. Having settled the requirements of Section 1, the Court invalidated Section 43 of the Military Absentee Act on the basis that it impermissibly authorized voting in locations other than an elector’s designated election district. See id. at 421-22. It is evident that the binding Chase holding is concerned with constitutional residency requirements, not constitutional parameters on the method of casting a vote. Nothing in the language of Section 43 implicated the method by which a vote would be cast. Further, its interpretation of “offer to vote” was unnecessary to the dispositive holding of the case that voting can only take place in a voter’s election district created by or under the authority of the legislature. The Chase Court’s incidental interpretation of “offer to vote” is dicta. See Castellani v. Scranton Times, L.P., 124 A.3d 1229, 1243 (Pa. 2015) (explaining that dicta is an opinion by the Court on an issue that is not essential to the decision). Thus, the Chase Court’s interpretation of “offer to vote,” standing alone, has no precedential value. However, sixty-two years later and addressing a fundamentally different Constitution, this Court decided Lancaster City, and squarely relied on Chase in doing so. In 1923, the General Assembly passed the Absentee Voting Act, which extended the absentee vote to non-military civilians who were absent from their election districts on election day due to their “duties, business, or occupation.” The Lancaster City Court recognized that “[w]hether such legislation can be sustained … depends on the wording of our Constitution, in the interpretation of which we are aided by consideration of what has been decided previous to its adoption.” Lancaster City, 126 A. at 200. The Court turned to Chase’s interpretation of Article III, Section 1 of the 1838 Constitution and its resulting rejection of the Military Absentee Act as unconstitutional. It reasoned that [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 52 “the adverse determination then made is controlling now, unless there has been some change in the fundamental law which makes necessary a different conclusion.” Id. Within this framework, the Court began with Chase’s interpretation of “offer to vote” before considering the “change[s] in the fundamental law” since that time. It started with the 1864 constitutional amendment, made in response to the Chase decision, that allowed military absentee voting. It acknowledged that this Court reaffirmed the right of the General Assembly to regulate the “places, mode and manner, and whatever else may be required, to insure [the] full and free exercise” of the right to vote shortly thereafter in connection with a challenge to the Registry Act of 1869. Id. (discussing Page v. Allen, 58 Pa. 338, 347 (1868)). However, the Court also took note that in Page, the Court explained that this ability to regulate the exercise of the right to vote is distinct from the enjoyment of the right, upon which the General Assembly is powerless to regulate. In other words, no constitutional qualification of an elector can in the least be abridged, added to, or altered, by legislation or the pretence of legislation. Any such action would necessarily be absolutely void and of no effect. We hold, therefore, what indeed was not expressly denied, that no regulation can be valid which would have the effect to increase the district, or state residence, prior to the time of an offer to exercise the right of an elector, or which would impose other or additional taxation or assessments, than those provided in the constitution. Id. at 201 (quoting Page, 58 Pa. at 347).38 This analysis of the constitutionality of the Registry Act involved a provision that added ten days to the residency requirement to qualify to vote and, as such, blatantly violated Section 1. 38 Ironically, the Page Court when quoting Article I, Section III of the 1838 Constitution misquoted the residency requirement contained therein as providing that an individual is only qualified to be an elector “where he intends to vote[,]” rather than where he “offers to vote[.]” Page, 58 Pa. at 346 (emphasis added). While this was apparently a clerical [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 53 Turning to the relevant amendments that occurred in 1901,39 the Lancaster City Court stated that the Article VIII, Section 1 provision addressing the qualification of voters was “practically the same” as its predecessor. Id. It acknowledged the establishment of error, it reflects the logical meaning of the description of the election district residency requirement, i.e., it merely describes the appropriate election district where the elector intends to exercise his right to vote. 39 As discussed above, in 1901, Sections 1 and 7 were amended as follows: Every male citizen twenty-one years of age, possessing the following qualifications, shall be entitled to vote at all elections, subject however to such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact: 1. He shall have been a citizen of the United States at least one month. 2. He shall have resided in the State one year (or, having previously been a qualified elector or native born citizen of the State, he shall have removed therefrom and returned, then six months) immediately preceding the election. 3. He shall have resided in the election district where he shall offer to vote at least two months immediately preceding the election. 4. If twenty-two years of age and upwards, he shall have paid within two years a State or county tax, which shall have been assessed at least two months and paid at least one month before the election. ***** All laws regulating the holding of elections by the citizens or for the registration of electors shall be uniform throughout the State, but laws regulating and requiring the registration of electors may be enacted to apply to cities only, provided that such laws be uniform for cities of the same class. PA. CONST. art. VIII, §§ 1, 7 (1874) (amended in 1901). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 54 registration requirements and also recognized that Section 4 was amended to provide that all elections “shall be by ballot or by such other method as may be prescribed by law: Provided, That secrecy in voting be preserved.” Id. (quoting PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 4 (1874) (amended in 1901)). Yet, the Court prioritized the “offer to vote” language contained in Section 1’s establishment of residency requirements, allowing it to guide its interpretation without consideration as to how the registration requirement or the amendment of Section 4 impacted the reasoning underlying Chase’s rationale that relied, in part, on the requirement in Section 2 of the 1838 Constitution that elections shall be by ballot. The Court emphasized that the Constitution retained the language that had been interpreted as requiring a voter to “offer to vote” within a designated election district and that the only exception allowed in the Charter is for the military absentee vote. Chase’s interpretation of “offer to vote” and the fact that the military absentee vote had since been singled out in Section 6 was determinative of the Court’s ultimate conclusion: The Legislature can confer the right to vote only upon those designated by the fundamental law, and subject to the limitations therein fixed. McCafferty v. Guyer, 59 Pa. 109. The latter has determined those who, absent from the district, may vote other than by personal presentation of the ballot, but those so permitted are specifically named in section 6 of article 8. The old principle that the expression of an intent to include one class excludes another has full application here. Id. Despite the constitutional amendments requiring pre-verification of qualifications pursuant to registration laws, and granting broad authority to the General Assembly to determine the method of voting, the Lancaster City Court found that because Section 1 retained the “offer to vote” language, the Constitution continued to require voting in propria persona. Although it acknowledged that the amendment of Section 4 provided [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 55 that elections shall be by ballot “or such other method as may be prescribed by law[,]” the Court discussed Section 4 only to acknowledge that an argument could be made that the legislation under review violated Section 4’s secrecy requirement, but it dismissed this concern, reasoning that because of its disposition, it need not address it. Id. The Court ventured that the secrecy requirement was “likely added in view of the suggestion of the use of voting machines[.]” Id. Thus, when the Court did contemplate Section 4, it was only with regard to the newly added secrecy requirement, not the grant of authority to the General Assembly to devise methods of voting. In so doing, the Court failed to consider the entirety of this constitutional provision. See Commonwealth v. Russo, 131 A.2d 83, 88 (Pa. 1957) (“We have no right to disregard … or distort any provision of the Constitution.”). Similarly, although it mentioned its existence, the Court did not consider the Registry Act of 1869, which was enacted after Chase and allowed voters’ qualifications to be established prior to the election. Nor did it address the amended Section 1, which subjected the qualification to vote to compliance with registration laws which were constitutionally required to be uniform pursuant to Section 7. The Lancaster City Court, faced with a newly amended Constitution, failed to grapple with any of the fundamental changes therein.40 First, it failed to consider what effect the uniform registration laws and the constitutionally required compliance with those 40 The Constitutional provision addressing absentee voting, now and at the time of Lancaster City, makes clear by its very terms that one is a qualified elector without regard to how a vote is cast. Present-day Section 14 begins by stating that “[t]he Legislature shall, by general law, provide a manner in which, and the time and place at which, qualified electors” who are absent from the municipality of their residence on Election Day, for certain enumerated reasons, “may vote.” PA. CONST. art. VII, § 14(a). The absentee voting provision at the time of Lancaster City was found in Article VIII, Section 6, and it provided for absentee voting “[w]henever any of the qualified electors of this Commonwealth shall be in actual military service[.]” PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 6 (1874). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 56 laws had on the practice of demonstrating one’s qualifications in person. The underlying rationale for the Chase Court’s interpretation of “offer to vote” as a requirement to vote in person was “in order that his neighbours might be at hand to establish his right to vote if it were challenged, or to challenge if it were doubtful.” Chase, 41 Pa. at 419. If “offer to vote” in fact had the independent meaning to vote in person for the reasons stated in Chase, then the amendment of Section 1 requiring compliance with registration laws eliminated any reliance on that interpretation. Second, to the extent the Chase Court drew on the requirement that elections were required to be by ballot and the custom that ballots be cast in person, Lancaster City failed to account for the amendment that authorized the legislatures to prescribe other methods by which elections could take place. Despite the Lancaster City Court’s acknowledgment that it was required to review the challenged legislation “in light of the controlling constitutional provisions[,]” Lancaster City, 126 A. at 200, it failed to do so and instead rested its decision on an interpretation made in a case decided more than half a century before, under a prior version of the Constitution that had been amended multiple times since, and for a proposition that was unquestionably dicta. The interpretation of Section 1 underlying Lancaster City, which elevated dicta from Chase, is palpably incomplete. The question thus arises as to whether we are bound to the interpretation of “offer to vote” designed by Chase and perpetuated in Lancaster City when, by any rules of constitutional construction recognized at the time of those decisions or now, the interpretation is patently flawed. The answer is that we are not. See William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., 170 A.3d 414, 457 (Pa. 2017) (“When presented with a case [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 57 that hinges upon our interpretation and application of prior case law, the validity of that case law always is subject to consideration, and we follow the exercise of our interpretive function wherever it leads.”); Commonwealth v. Doughty, 126 A.3d 951, 955 (Pa. 2015) (“While the doctrine of stare decisis is important, it does not demand unseeing allegiance to things past.”) (“It is … revolting if the grounds upon which [a rule of law] was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”) (quoting O.W. Holmes, The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457, 469 (1897)); Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 104 A.3d 328, 352 (Pa. 2014) (“[W]e have long recognized that the doctrine of stare decisis is not a vehicle for perpetuating error, but a legal concept which responds to the demands of justice, and thus, permits the orderly growth processes of the law to flourish.”) (internal citations omitted); Olin Mathieson Chem. Corp. v. White Cross Stores, Inc., No. 6, 199 A.2d 266, 268 (Pa. 1964) (“[T]he courts should not perpetrate error solely for the reason that a previous decision although erroneous, has been rendered on a given question.”). Compared to the federal Constitution, our Pennsylvania Charter has been amended on a frequent basis41 to reflect, inter alia, changes in the Commonwealth itself. Changes to our Charter’s provisions regarding elections are reflective of the symbiotic 41 Since the Twentieth Century, more than 150 substantive amendments were made to our Constitution. See Duquesne University School of Law, Texts of the Constitution, https://www.paconstitution.org/texts-of-the-constitution/ (last visited July 11, 2022); Pa. General Assembly, Legislation Enacted, Joint Resolutions (Amendments to the Constitution) passed, https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/CL/Public/cl_view_action1.cfm?sess_yr=&ses s_ind=0&cl_typ=JR&cl_nbr= (last visited July 11, 2022); Ballotpedia, List of Pennsylvania Ballot Measures, https://ballotpedia.org/List_of_Pennsylvania_ballot_measures (last visited July 11, 2022). In contrast, the federal Constitution has been amended only twenty-seven times. See U.S. CONST. amends. I-XXVII. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 58 relationship between advancements and changes in the Commonwealth’s society and recognizing them by way of Constitutional amendment. We have an obligation to give amendments to our Charter meaning. b. Article VII, Section 1 The meaning ascribed by the Chase and Lancaster City Courts to the phrase “offer to vote” cannot be reconciled with the text of Article VII, Section 1, which at the time of the passage of Act 77 provided: Section 1, Qualification of Electors, provides: Qualifications of Electors Every citizen 21 years of age, possessing the following qualifications, shall be entitled to vote at all elections subject, however, to such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact. 1. He or she shall have been a citizen of the United States at least one month. 2. He or she shall have resided in the State 90 days immediately preceding the election. 3. He or she shall have resided in the election district where he or she shall offer to vote at least 60 days immediately preceding the election, except that if qualified to vote in an election district prior to removal of residence, he or she may, if a resident of Pennsylvania, vote in the election district from which he or she removed his or her residence within 60 days preceding the election. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 1. (emphasis added) The word “vote” is used four times in Section 1. Section 1 refers to an elector being “entitled to vote” and “qualified to vote,” and once provides than an elector “may … vote.” The two most pertinent instances of the use of “vote” for our analysis appear in the third subsection, which is the same subsection in which “offer to vote” appears. While the [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 59 elector “shall have resided in the election district where he or she shall offer to vote” at least sixty days immediately preceding the election, this same subsection creates a sixtyday lookback period for electors who move their residence within the bounds of the Commonwealth. Such electors who are qualified “to vote” in an election district sixty days prior to relocating their residence may “vote” in the election district from which they moved. It is relevant that neither of these instances within the third subsection repeat the use of “offer to vote,” just as it is relevant to our interpretation that the first paragraph of Section 1 states that citizens with the proper qualifications shall be entitled “to vote,” not entitled “to offer to vote.” We must reconcile, in the context of Article VII, Section 1 of our current Charter, this repeated use of the word “vote” with the singular use of the phrase “offer to vote,” which is found in the paragraph requiring votes to be cast in particular election districts. And the location of this phrase is key. Section 1 sets forth the qualifications that a citizen must establish in order to be “entitled to vote.” To be “entitled to vote,” the citizen must be at least twenty-one years old42 and must possess the “following qualifications,” which are enumerated in three subsections. The first subsection requires United States citizenship, and the second subsection requires Pennsylvania residency. The third subsection requires election district residency as a qualification to cast a vote in a particular election district. It is in service of defining this election district residency requirement that we find the lone use of “offer to vote.” The phrase “where he or she shall 42 In 1971, the twenty-sixth amendment to the United States Constitution lowered the voting age to eighteen. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 60 offer to vote” is a descriptive clause43 that modifies the object of the prepositional phrase “in the election district.” It does no more than identify the district in which the elector is eligible to vote, which is the interpretation supported by the recorded history. Given the clear intent of Section 1 to set forth the qualification to vote, this is the most natural reading of the third subsection of Section 1. See League of Women Voters, 178 A.3d at 802. 43 In dissent, Justice Mundy, without any reference to the extensive recorded history of the Constitutional Convention that first introduced this amendment, see supra pp. 34-35; Concurring Op. at 10-14 (Wecht, J.), opines that the phrase “offer to vote” contemplates that some in-person action must be taken in the election district. Dissenting Op. at 17-18 (Mundy, J.). Although we disagree that anything other than residency in the district is required, it remains a mystery as to how the dissent (or the Chase Court) transforms “offer” into “appear in person.” Id. It may be that the Court in Page got the meaning right when it inadvertently translated “offer to vote” to “intends to vote” when quoting the election district residency requirement. See supra note 38. Contrary to the dissent’s assertion that we suggest “offer” signifies a subjective intent, we do not. Our reference to the Page Court’s inadvertent translation of “offer to vote” to “intends to vote” does not inform our analysis, but merely highlights the oddity of the drafters’ use of the phrase “offer to vote” in the section of the elections article establishing voter qualifications. The nineteenth century dictionary definitions, to which the dissent refers, do not support the proposition that “appear in person” flows from “offer to vote.” See Concurring Op. at 15 & nn. 13, 14 (Wecht, J.). Acting as a transitive verb, the word “offer” was defined as “to bring to or before; … to present for acceptance or rejection,” “to present in words; to proffer; to make a proposal to,” “to bid,” “to present to the view or to the mind[.]” Offer, WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY OF 1828. None of these definitions impute the necessity of a personal appearance. Likewise, the word “offer” serving as an intransitive verb, as the dissent suggests the Chase Court understood the term, is also defined in several ways, which, again, do not require physical presence. Offer, W EBSTER’S DICTIONARY OF 1828; see also Dissenting Op. at 18-19 (Mundy, J). For example, “offer” was defined as “to declare a willingness” and “[t]o make an attempt.” Offer, WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY OF 1828. Like its transitive verb counterpart, nothing in these definitions suggest the requirement of a personal presence. The dissent asserts that “offer” was defined as “to be present, to be at hand, to present oneself,” see Dissenting Op. at 19. The actual definition reads: “[t]o present itself; to be at hand.” Offer, WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY OF 1828. Suffice it to say, one need not be present to present. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 61 There is no indication in Section 1 as a whole or in its third subsection that it establishes the manner in which a vote must be cast. There is no rule of construction that allows us to add the words “offer to” in three different places (including the overarching opening paragraph) where the anomalous terminology “offer to vote” can be explained based on clear historical records as the descriptive syntax that was chosen to define an election district residency qualification. Moreover, any interpretation of Section 1 requires a uniform interpretation of “vote” because a contrary conclusion is not sustainable. If, as Appellees contend, “offer to vote” possesses a particular meaning, then we can neither ignore its omission or read it into the instances in Section 1 that use “vote” unencumbered by “offer to.” Thus, an elector who relocates within the Commonwealth within the sixty-day window prescribed in the third subsection is not required to vote in person (as it does not say “offer to vote”) while an elector who has consistently resided in the election district must appear in person to vote in that district. This is an absurd result. Our clear rule of constitutional interpretation mandates that we reject such a reading. 1 Pa.C.S. § 1922. Moreover, the rationale for the Chase Court’s imposition of an in-person voting requirement was the need for other voters in a voting district to verify the bona fides of an individual appearing to cast a ballot. See Chase, 41 Pa. at 419 (“The constitution meant, rather, that the voter, in propria persona, should offer his vote in an appropriate election district, in order that his neighbours might be at hand to establish his right to vote if it were challenged, or to challenge if it were doubtful.”). The Constitution it was interpreting was drafted at a time when there were no voter registration laws and, arguably, the only way to verify an individual’s qualifications to vote in an election district was to allow his [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 62 neighbors to identify him as qualified. This lack of verifiable qualifications to vote ended with the passage of registration laws. Critically, in 1901, the elections article of the Constitution was amended to subject an otherwise qualified elector to “such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact.” PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 1 (1874) (amended in 1901). The registration compliance requirement also appears in the current Article VII, Section 1. Since the enactment of the Election Code in 1937, voters are required to prove their identities and qualifications prior to casting a vote. Act of June 3, 1937, P.L. 1333, art. VII, § 701. The Commonwealth relies on the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (“SURE”), which is “a single, uniform integrated computer system” that “[c]ontain[s] a database of all registered electors in this Commonwealth.” 25 Pa.C.S. § 1222(c)(1)-(2). In order to register, voters submit to the Department of State their personal information, including their name, address, party affiliation, part of their Social Security number, and driver’s license or state ID number. See PA. DEP’T OF STATE, Online Voter Registration Application, https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx (last visited July 11, 2022). These voters’ signatures are also submitted, and, as an additional way to verify identity, these signatures are available to be matched with those on the outside of universal mail-in (and absentee ballots) before being tabulated. See id.; see also In re November 3, 2020 General Election, 240 A.3d 591, 596-97 (Pa. 2020). Consequently, the rationale supporting the Chase Court’s questionable interpretation of [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 63 offer to vote ceased to exist in 1901.44 While the Lancaster City Court did not reconcile the basis of the Chase Court’s interpretation of “offer to vote” with the amended Constitution before it in 1924, it is our obligation to do so in interpreting our current Constitution. We therefore conclude that neither Chase nor Lancaster City support the conclusion that “offer to vote” creates in-person ballot-casting as a voter qualification in Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution in effect when Act 77 was enacted. Rather, the phrase “offer to vote” is a descriptive term, used to define the election district residency requirement found in Article VII, Section 1(3).45 The Commonwealth Court expressed its view that “[m]ail-in ballots present particular challenges with respect to ‘safeguards of honest suffrage.’” McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1252 n.12. Its only support for this statement was a decades-old case, Marks v. Stinson, 19 F.3d 873, 887 (3d Cir. 1994). As the Third Circuit recently explained, the unique facts of that case “were a far cry from” a normal election and do not establish that mail-in voting is inherently more susceptible to fraud than other forms of voting. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Sec’y of Pa., 830 F. App’x 377, 388-89 (3d Cir. 2020). 44 Justice Mundy likewise cites to Marks without the critical qualification provided in Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Dissenting Op. at 6 (Mundy, J.). Despite disclaiming policy considerations, see id. at 22, the Dissent further asserts that “it is self-evident that the integrity of elector actions becomes more difficult to verify when they are undertaken at a distance and outside of public scrutiny.” Id. at 7 (emphasis in original). Presumably the Dissent is referring to universal mail-in voting, although her citations are to articles concerning the potential or possibility for fraud or error in absentee voting. Id. at 7 n.1. We are unaware of any evidence to call into question the integrity of any elections in this Commonwealth since the enactment of Act 77, including those in 2021, in which appellate court jurists at all levels were elected and subsequently seated. 45 The dissenting Justices complain that our decision here violates a historical reliance on the Chase Court’s interpretation of “offer to vote” as requiring in-person voting, subject only to exceptions created by way of constitutional amendment. See Dissenting Op. at 16 (Mundy, J.); Dissenting Op. at 4 n.6 (Brobson, J.). It is certainly not true that our General Assembly has historically relied on the Chase Court’s in-person voting [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 64 c. Article VII, Section 4 Having established that Section 1 does not require electors to submit their ballots in person at their polling location, it remains that submitting a ballot in person is a method by which electors may vote. The Lancaster City Court had the first opportunity to interpret the language and scope of what is now Article VII, Section 4, which addresses the “method” of voting. However, it failed to do so because of its slavish adherence to Chase’s dicta. This was a critical omission because Chase referenced the requirement in the 1838 Constitution that elections shall be by ballot in formulating its conclusion that voters must appear in person to cast a vote. Chase, 41 Pa. at 419. As a result of the Lancaster City Court’s incomplete analysis, Section 4’s meaning was left unresolved. Accordingly, we undertake an examination of this constitutional provision and its relevance to the current question. Section 4, unchanged since 1901, provides: Method of Elections; Secrecy in Voting. Section 4. requirement or Lancaster City’s adoption of it. In 1963, the legislature provided that all aspects of absentee voting could be done by mail. See Act of April 29, 1963, No. 379, P.L. 738. In that same year, our General Assembly passed legislation allowing spouses of those in military service to vote by mail. See Act of August 13, 1963, P.L. 707, § 20, effective Jan. 1, 1964; see also 25 P.S. § 3146.1(b). Then, again by legislative enactment in 1968 (the same year the Constitution was amended to revamp Article VII, Section 14), additional categories of voters were permitted to vote by mail. Specifically, persons absent from their election district because of their “duties, occupation or business.” This was broadly defined to include vacations, sabbatical leaves or leaves of absence for teaching or education. It also included an elector’s spouse who accompanies the elector during absences associated with their “duties, occupation or business.” 25 P.S. § 2602(z.3). Although the legislature referred to the extended category of voters as absentee voters, the effect of the legislation was to extend mail-in voting to categories of electors not designated in Section 14. Justice Mundy’s suggestion that it was always understood that the expansion of mail-in voting can only be accomplished by an amendment to the Constitution is belied by this record. See Dissenting Op. at 16 (Mundy, J.). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 65 All elections by the citizens shall be by ballot or by such other method as may be prescribed by law: Provided, That secrecy in voting be preserved. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 4. It is plain that Section 4 endows the General Assembly with the authority to enact methods of voting subject only to the requirement of secrecy. There is scant legislative history related to the amendment of this provision, but comments made by Governor William Stone to the Senate regarding this proposed amendment suggest that the purpose of the amendment was “the substitution of voting machines for [the] present system of balloting.” Journal of the Pennsylvania Senate, Session of 1901, Vol. 2, at 1543 (statement of Governor William Stone). This statement reveals that at the time, voting by ballot and by machine were viewed as alternative methods of casting a vote. Viewed in this context, the conclusion follows that “method” as used in Section 4 refers to the way a vote is cast. This conclusion is further supported by the meaning of the term “method” as it was understood at the time of Section 4’s amendment, as well as today. When interpreting constitutional language, we are mindful that the language of the Constitution controls and that it must be interpreted “in its popular sense, as understood by the people when they voted on its adoption.” Pa. Env’t Def. Found. v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911, 929 (Pa. 2017). In ascertaining the meaning of a word in accordance with its common and approved usage, this Court has found it helpful to consult dictionaries. Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, Inc. v. Commonwealth, 263 A.3d 611, 620 (Pa. 2021) (citing Bruno v. Erie Ins. Co., 106 A.3d 48, 75 (Pa. 2014)). Around the time that the section addressing methods of election was first amended, “method” had been defined as “[a] general or established way or order of doing or proceeding in anything, or the means or manner by which such way is presented or inculcated[.]” Method, Standard [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 66 Dictionary of the English Language, Vol. II (M to Z), 1117 (1895). Our modern definition of “method” has diverged little, and provides, as relevant here, “a procedure or process for attaining an object: such as … a way, technique, or process of or for doing something.” Method, MERRIAM-W EBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY (last visited July 11, 2022); see also Method, BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY, 1187 (11th ed. 2019) (defining “method” as “[a] mode of organizing, operating, or performing something, esp. to achieve a goal <method of election>”). Based on the use of such broad language, the General Assembly is authorized, pursuant to Section 4, to prescribe any process by which electors may vote. The amendment did not limit the relevant methods of casting a vote to ballot or voting machine, as were relevant at the time of its passage, but instead provided that the General Assembly could enact laws establishing “other methods” for elections by citizens, subject only to the requirement that the method preserve secrecy in voting. Maintaining the secrecy of an elector’s vote is supported by a fairly straightforward rationale, namely, that “[a] citizen in secret is a free man; otherwise he is subject to pressure and, perhaps, control.” In re Second Legislative District Election, 4 Pa. D. & C. 2d 93, 95 (C.C.P. Luzerne 1956). Such secrecy has historically served as a bastion to the integrity of the election franchise.46 However, the requirement that secrecy must be preserved cannot 46 Initially, the Constitution of 1874 provided an early method for maintaining secrecy in voting in Section 4: All elections by the citizens shall be by ballot. Every ballot voted shall be numbered in the order in which it shall be received, and the number recorded by the election officers on the list of voters, opposite the name of the elector who presents the ballot. Any elector may write his name upon his [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 67 alone inform the legislature as to what methods it may prescribe, only that those methods must maintain this secrecy. This was, and continues to be, the sole restriction found in Section 4. The lack of restriction other than the maintenance of secrecy has overarching significance. The only restrictions on the power of our General Assembly to enact legislation are found within the Constitution, and any such restrictions must be explicit. See Stilp, 974 A.2d at 494-95 (explaining that courts must narrowly construe constitutional provisions that place limitations on the General Assembly’s power because “unlike the federal Constitution, the powers not expressly withheld from the General Assembly inhere in it”). It is well established that “[t]he test of legislative power is constitutional restriction. What the people have not said in the organic law their representatives shall not do, they may do.” Russ, 60 A. at 172. The courts are bound to ticket or cause the same to be written thereon and attested by a citizen of the district. The election officers shall be sworn or affirmed not to disclose how any elector shall have voted unless required to do so as witnesses in a judicial proceeding. PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 4 (1874) (emphasis added). Pursuant to the 1874 provision, it was required that the election officers were not to disclose voters’ selections, whereas the legislature was not constitutionally mandated to establish voting methods which inherently maintained secrecy. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, there were other election reforms that sought to preserve secrecy in the actual voting methods, most notably the Ballot Reform Act of 1891. Act of June 19, 1891, No. 289, P.L. 358. Through this legislation, counties were required to provide a “sufficient number of voting shelves or compartments at or in which voters may conveniently mark their ballots, so that in marking thereof they may be screened from the observation of others.” Id. Moreover, the Ballot Reform Act further prohibited anyone from “electioneer[ing] or solicit[ing] votes for any party or candidate[.]” Id. With the 1901 amendment, maintaining secrecy in the voting method itself was enshrined in the Constitution. See PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 4 (1874) (amended in 1901). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 68 respect the breadth of power given to our legislative branch, and we reject any challenge to a law that is not based on a prohibition in the Constitution. Russ illustrates this point, as the Court refused to invalidate a law for any reason less than a showing of constitutional prohibition, even in the face of a charge of corruption and the abuse of legislative power: ‘Nothing but a clear violation of the Constitution—a clear usurpation of power prohibited—will justify the judicial department in pronouncing an act of the legislative department unconstitutional and void.’ Pennsylvania Railroad Company v. Riblet, 66 Pa. 164, 5 Am. Rep. 360. ‘To justify a court in pronouncing an act of the Legislature unconstitutional and void, either in whole or in part, it must be able to vouch some exception or prohibition clearly expressed or necessarily implied. To doubt is to be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of the act. This rule of construction is so well settled by authority that it is entirely unnecessary to cite the cases.’ Id. at 172-73. Like the Court in Russ, we are scrupulously mindful that it is not the place of this Court to opine as to the wisdom or purpose underlying the law. To be a restraint on the General Assembly’s law-making authority, it must be explicitly set forth or necessarily implied in the Constitution. There is no restriction – other than the maintenance of secrecy – in Section 4 on the methods of election the General Assembly may establish. The reading adopted by the Commonwealth Court that “such other method” refers only to “the use of mechanical devices at the polling place[,]” McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1262, is unsupported by the language of Section 4. The Commonwealth Court’s supposition contravenes the maxim that when interpreting constitutional provisions, a court may not disregard the plain language of a statute in favor of “a supposed intent.” League of Women Voters, 178 A.3d at 802. Nor can a court impose a restraint on legislative [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 69 authority that is not contained in the Constitution. Moreover, the Commonwealth Court minimized the constitutional amendment specifically permitting the use of voting machines that was enacted in 1928. See PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 7 (1874) (amended in 1928). Its construction that “such other methods” only refers to voting machines renders Section 4 as surplusage given the express constitutional recognition of voting by machine which now appears as Article VII, Section 6. The determination of alternative procedures for conducting an election was vested in the legislature by Article VII, Section 4. It can be inferred from the Commonwealth Court’s thorough historical background discussion47 that when the Chase Court discussed the requirement that elections be “by ballot” in conjunction with its conclusion that voters must appear in person, it may have drawn from the method by which elections were then conducted, where a written ballot or ticket was completed by a voter who would then personally present it at a polling place. Assuming that this was the established method of voting, the amendment to Section 4 clearly authorizes alternative methods. And although the recorded history of the amendment reflects that the drafters envisioned the legislative allowance of voting machines, the legislature’s authority was conspicuously not limited to that one other method. 47 See McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1254-56. Although it provides thorough explication of the history of the use of ballots as a method of voting, we take some exception to the Commonwealth Court’s notion that Pennsylvania voters during the entirety of the colonial era voted viva voce. See id. at 1254. While some colonies practiced viva voce voting, many others, including Pennsylvania, used ballots. David Clark, Law Reform as a Legal Transplant: The South Australian Ballot in Australia and in America, FLINDERS J. OF L. REFORM, Vol. 11, Issue 2, at 312 (2009). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 70 Act 77 prescribed another method for elections. By application, universal mail-in voters pre-qualify to cast a ballot in their election district and request mail-in ballots, see 25 P.S. § 3150.12, and return the completed slip to their respective county board of elections for canvassing, see 25 P.S. §§ 3150.16, 3146.8. Nothing in Article VII, Section 4 dictates how an elector must deliver their vote for canvassing and nothing in Article VII, Section 1 requires a qualified elector to deliver a vote in person, i.e., to manually deliver the ballot to a designated official. The Constitution does not restrain the legislature from designing a method of voting in which votes can be delivered by mail by qualified electors for canvassing.48 It is beyond dispute that “[f]or the orderly exercise of the right [to vote] resulting from these qualifications, it is admitted that the legislature must prescribe necessary regulations, as to the places, mode and manner, and whatever else may be required, to insure its full exercise.” Robinson Twp., 83 A.3d at 944 n.31 (quoting Page, 58 Pa. at 347). Thus, pursuant to Section 4, the legislature has the authority to provide that votes can be cast by mail by all qualified electors. The only restraint on the legislature’s design of a method of voting is that it must maintain the secrecy of the vote.49 48 In contrast to the postal system as it existed when Chase was decided, see supra note 36, our postal service has become increasingly more sophisticated. By the 1960s, the advent of Zoning Improvement Plan (“ZIP”) Codes and letter sorting machines enabled more efficient and effective organization of mail, increasing productivity and reliability. USPS, supra, at 54-59. This automation in postal sorting and delivery continued to advance throughout the decades, particularly with the development of computer technology. Id. at 68-74. 49 The Election Code provides for secrecy in universal mail-in voting by requiring the use of both an inner envelope marked only as “Official Election Ballot,” and a larger envelope. See 25 P.S. § 3150.14. Once a universal mail-in voter receives an official mail-in ballot, they are required to mark the ballot in secret and seal it in the envelope marked “Official Election Ballot,” and then they must secure the secrecy envelope inside the larger envelope. Id. § 3150.16. If there is any identifying information on any of the envelopes, [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 71 Act 77 ensures such secrecy in the same manner as it did with the design of the procedure for absentee voting by mail which has been a part of our election methodology since 1963. Appellees argue that Act 77 impermissibly eliminates the requirement that electors must cast their ballots in person in preordained locations. See Bonner’s Brief at 43. Likewise, the underpinning of the Commonwealth Court’s reasons for invalidating universal mail-in voting was that “it ignores the in-person place requirement that was made part of our fundamental law in 1838.” McLinko, 270 A.3d at 1263. We have rejected that interpretation in the context of the Constitution in effect at the time Act 77 was enacted. Rather, the controlling principles are that Section 4 broadly authorizes the legislature to prescribe alternative methods of voting and the Constitution does not otherwise prohibit the General Assembly from enacting universal mail-in voting. Thus, the General Assembly possesses the power to do so. See Stilp, 974 A.2d at 499 (“Consistent with our guiding principles of Pennsylvania Constitutional analysis, the General Assembly has the ability to act, absent some prohibition.”). d. Article VII, Section 14 Appellees argue that an interpretation of Section 4 that permits the enactment of universal mail-in voting renders Section 14 mere surplusage, as there would be no need for a separate constitutional provision establishing absentee voting for certain categories of voters if the General Assembly could effectuate the same through legislation. This is incorrect. Section 14 establishes the categories of qualified electors that are entitled to it is required that the envelopes and ballots must be set aside and declared void. Id. § 3146.8. This process is virtually identical to the process absentee voters have used since 1963. See Act of August 13, 1963, No. 379, P.L. 738. [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 72 avail themselves of absentee voting and guarantees those categories of voters a method of casting an absentee vote. Section 14 provides, in relevant part, the following: § 14. Absentee voting (a) The Legislature shall, by general law, provide a manner in which, and the time and place at which, qualified electors who may, on the occurrence of any election, be absent from the municipality of their residence, because their duties, occupation or business require them to be elsewhere or who, on the occurrence of any election, are unable to attend at their proper polling places because of illness or physical disability or who will not attend a polling place because of the observance of a religious holiday or who cannot vote because of election day duties, in the case of a county employee, may vote, and for the return and canvass of their votes in the election district in which they respectively reside. PA. CONST. art. VII, § 14(a) (1968 as amended). The history of the inclusion in our Constitution of a provision for qualified electors to vote if they are absent from their election district on Election Day is relevant to our analysis. Our Charter was amended in 1864 in response to Chase to allow qualified electors in active military service to exercise their right of suffrage in a manner prescribed by law as if they were present in their usual place of election. PA. CONST. art. III, § 4 (1838) (amended in 1864). The amendment addressed the Chase court’s concern that the legislature, not military authority, is required to set the parameters for exercising the right to vote. More directly, it established that a qualified voter in active military service had the ability to cast a vote from outside of his designated election district. Subsequent amendments to the absentee voting provision of the Constitution made accommodations for qualified voters unable to vote in their district due to their [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 73 “unavoidable” absence because of their duties, occupation or business or because of illness or physical disability, see PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 19 (1874) (amended in 1957), and later, eliminated the “unavoidable” nature of the absence for work-related absence and added the additional classification of absentee voters that appears in our current Constitution. While it is accurate that Act 77’s provision of universal mail-in voting provides a way for designated absentee voters to cast their vote without resorting to the absentee voting provisions of the Election Code,50 this current ability to do so does not render Section 14 of Article VII surplusage. As discussed, nothing in Article VII prohibits the legislature from eliminating the ability of qualified voters to cast their votes by mail, just as nothing in the Constitution required it to do so. By recently enacting Act 77, the legislature made a policy decision, based on the authority afforded it by our Charter, to afford all qualified voters the convenience of casting their votes by mail. However, acts of the legislature are not guaranteed to be permanent. Article VII, Section 14 guarantees51 that regardless of the legislature’s exercise of its authority to determine the way that votes may be cast, those classes of absentee 50 See 25 P.S. §§ 2602(z.6), 3150.11, 3150.12. 51 The guaranty to be free from legislatively imposed, in-person voting requirements to the classes of voters enumerated in Section 14 was established by the Constitution of 1968. The predecessor section provided as follows: The Legislature may, by general law, provide a manner in which, and the time and place at which, qualified voters who may, on the occurrence of any election, be unavoidably absent from the State or county of their residence because of their duties, occupation or business require them to be elsewhere or who, on the occurrence of any election, are [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 74 voters designated within it will be guaranteed the ability to participate in the electoral process. Whether or not Act 77’s universal mail-in provisions survive future legislatures, Article 14 guarantees the constitutionally designated qualified voters a way to exercise their franchise regardless of their location on Election Day. G. Conclusion Section 13 of Act 77 is not a bar to our consideration of the universal mail-in voting provisions of the Act. The Commonwealth Court’s declaration that the universal mail-in voting provisions of Act 77 were unconstitutional was premised on its conclusion that it was bound by the definition of “offer to vote” in Article VII, Section 1 of our Constitution as construed in the Chase and Lancaster City decisions. For the reasons we have explained, the pronouncements in those cases do not control our interpretation of the Constitution in effect when Act 77 became law. Based upon our analysis of Article VII, Section 1 of our Constitution, we conclude that the phrase “offer to vote” does not establish in-person voting as an elector qualification or otherwise mandate in-person voting. We reiterate that our General Assembly is endowed with great legislative power, unable to attend at their proper polling places because of illness or physical disability, may vote, and for the return and canvass of their votes in the election district in which they respectively reside. PA. CONST. art. VIII, § 19 (1874) (amended in 1957). In 1968, the directory “may” became the mandatory “shall” that continues to appear in Section 14. See Lorino v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd., 266 A.3d 487, 493 (Pa. 2021) (“The term ‘shall’ establishes a mandatory duty, whereas the term ‘may’ connotates an act that is permissive, but not mandated or required.”); see also Zimmerman v. O’Bannon, 442 A.2d 674, 677 (Pa. 1982) (refusing “to ignore the mandatory connotation usually attributed to the word ‘shall’”). [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 75 subject only to express restrictions in the Constitution. We find no restriction in our Constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting.52 The order of the Commonwealth Court is affirmed as to the reviewability of the challenged statutory provisions. Otherwise, the decision is reversed.53 Chief Justice Baer and Justices Todd and Dougherty join the opinion. Justice Wecht joins the opinion, except for its determination that Act 77 prescribed an “other method” of voting, pursuant to Article VII, Section 4 of our Constitution. Justice Wecht files a concurring opinion. Justice Mundy files a dissenting opinion in which Justice Brobson joins. Justice Brobson files a dissenting opinion in which Justice Mundy joins. It bears repeating that Act 77’s universal mail-in voting extends a method of voting to the entire electorate that our General Assembly has made available to voters it legislatively deemed to be absentee voters in 1963 and 1968. See supra pp. 40-41. 52 Our conclusion in this regard defeats Bonner’s federal claims, as the viability of those claims requires a finding that the universal mail in provisions of Act 77 are unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution. See Bonner’s Brief at 15-16 (explaining that his claims that Act 77 violate federal law and the U.S. Constitution as based on the premise that the General Assembly violated the Pennsylvania Constitution when it enacted it). As we have found no constitutional infirmity in Act 77’s universal mail in voting provisions, there is no foundation for Bonner’s claims. 53 [J-18A-2022, J-18B-2022, J-18C-2022, J-18D-2022 and J-18E-2022] - 76
Primary Holding
"We reiterate that our General Assembly is endowed with great legislative power, subject only to express restrictions in the Constitution. We find no restriction in our Constitution on the General Assembly’s ability to create universal mail-in voting."

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