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How is secrecy preserved with mail-in ballots? | 2023 Election Mailbag

By: - October 6, 2023 11:26 am

(Capital-Star photo)

Welcome to the Capital-Star’s election mailbag: a weekly round-up of voting questions, crowdsourced from you — our readers. 

Here’s this week’s question and answer:

You asked: Article VII Section 4 of the PA constitution requires that secrecy in voting be preserved. How is this done with mail-in ballots? For example, what prevents an overbearing spouse from being able to see and dictate to their partner who to vote for?

A: A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State did not address the specific example cited in this question but reminded voters about the importance of the secrecy envelope when it comes to protecting voter privacy. 

“Pennsylvania law requires that mail-in and absentee voters mark their ballot in secret and then place it in a secrecy envelope, which is then placed in an outer envelope to be sent to the appropriate county board of elections,” spokesperson Amy Gulli said.

Secrecy envelopes have been a point of contention since no-excuse mail-in ballots were first accepted in 2020, due to concerns over whether a ballot that was not properly placed in its secrecy envelope could be counted. 

The prevalence of ballots without a secrecy envelope — known as “naked ballots” — resulted in a ruling from the state Supreme Court in 2020, barring ballots without a secrecy envelope from being counted by election officials.

What’s a ‘naked ballot?’ And why will it will lead to your Pa. mail-in ballot being rejected?

Voters can find more information on voting by mail and using the secrecy envelope here.

If you have questions about the election or voting process, submit them here or send them to [email protected] with the subject “election mail.”

Then, check back here each week for the answers. 


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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.