When Major League Baseball took President Joe Biden’s advice and stripped Atlanta of the 2021 All-Star game in protest of Georgia’s election laws, Pennsylvania Senator Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) jumped into action. They sent a letter asking the league to consider Pittsburgh in its search. “There is nothing more American than voting and baseball,” the two Democratic state senators said.
They noted the Keystone State has “unfettered access for our citizens to the ballot box,” because of Act 77 — a 2019 law and the most comprehensive update to the Pennsylvania Election Code in decades. The law, which allows for no-excuse mail-in voting, was passed by a Republican legislature without full Democratic support. In fact, one legislator who voted against it was Sen. Wayne Fontana.
MLB has reportedly decided to go to Denver. However, their letter raises the question: If professional baseball is using the “Biden standard” to decide where the All-Star game is played, would Pennsylvania have passed muster?
It’s not an easy question to answer, given how Republican legislators have turned on their own law. Republicans in Harrisburg say Act 77 has been so altered by partisan court decisions it no longer reflects their legislative intent. Democrats, even Democrats who initially opposed the bill, are now fierce defenders of the legislation.
And, it’s important to note, Pennsylvania election law is mostly enforced by the counties, with significant differences in application and approach. For example, in the 45th Senate District incomplete ballots were counted in Allegheny County, but not Westmoreland County — a decision that tipped the election to the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Jim Brewster.
But taking state laws as written, could Pennsylvania host the All-Star game if Georgia can’t? Let’s compare and contrast:
Biden has claimed the new Georgia law, “ends voter hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.” That claim earned him four Pinocchio’s from the Washington Post. The law actually states that polls are open on Election Day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. In Pennsylvania, polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Biden may have been referring to drop-off locations for mail-in voting. In which case, Pennsylvania and Georgia would be the same.
“In terms of dropping a ballot off, if the office closes at 5:00 and you get there at 5:05, you could be out of luck,” said Shohin Vance, an attorney who specializes in Pennsylvania election law. “This is the same as an application for a mail-in ballot, or a variety of other voting-related deadlines.”
ADVANTAGE: Pennsylvania on Election Day by one hour, push on all other deadlines
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a formal “early voting” period outside of mail-in ballots being turned in before Election Day.
In Georgia, precincts are open for 17 days prior to the Election, and at least two of them must be a Saturday. Pennsylvania has no such option, only a requested mail-in or absentee ballot can be sent in early.
Pennsylvania counties can start mailing no-excuse mail-in ballots, or absentee ballots if requested 50 days before the election, barring any lawsuits. At a minimum, requested ballots must be sent in 14 days before the election.
Georgia begins returning its Absentee Ballots 11 weeks, or 77 days, before the election.
Georgia ballots are required to be returned two Fridays before the Election; Pennsylvanians have until Election Day at 8:00 p.m. to return a ballot. In the 2020 Election, courts granted the Department of State to advise counties to keep ballots received as late the Friday after the election, although none of those ballots were counted due to a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Neither state requires a reason for requesting a mail-in ballot.
ADVANTAGE: PUSH – Pennsylvania allows ballots to be received until Election Day, a period of 50 days on the long end. Georgia’s period to return a ballot is longer at 66, but is two Fridays, or 11 days before the election.
Despite a bill passed and signed into law in 2011 by Gov. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania has no Voter ID. It was overturned by the state courts. However, in order to vote by mail, you must provide a driver’s license or PennDOT Photo ID card if you don’t have a license or the last four digits of your Social security number. If you don’t have access to either of those options, a photo ID from a college, long-term care facility, government ID badge, Passport, or Military ID.
Georgia has adopted a similar policy.
Food and Water at the Polls
“Pennsylvania allows campaign materials to be handed out within 10 feet of a poll but prohibits ‘gifts’ or anything of value considered to be an exchange for a vote,” said Vance. “In fact, there was a court case in 1907 of a candidate handing out cigars. The Court clarified there was no quid-quo-pro but in order to maintain integrity and confidence in the election, the activity was found illegal.”
Georgia limits groups from providing anything of monetary value within 150 feet of a polling place and 25 feet from a person standing in line to vote.
ADVANTAGE: Pennsylvania, Georgia still allows for items of value near a polling location, this practice is illegal in Pennsylvania.
When comparing Pennsylvania and Georgia, it’s difficult to give a decided edge to one state or the other. They both require some form of ID for mail-in ballots and both limit gifts on election day. Both states allow for mail-in ballots to dropped off in-person or in drop boxes. One big difference is, Georgia requires 17 days for a voter to cast a ballot early in a precinct, Pennsylvania precincts are only open on Election Day.
Given the similarities between the two states, it would appear Pennsylvania would be unsuitable for hosting the MLB All-Star Game.