“If you’re voting by mail in Pennsylvania this year, and you want your vote to actually count, you need to remember one crucial thing: the secrecy envelope.
Once you fill out the ballot itself, you must place it inside the provided secrecy envelope, which contains no information about your identity. Then you put the sealed secrecy envelope inside a different postage-paid addressed return envelope, on which you have to sign your name and write your address.
If you forget the secrecy envelope — simply dropping your ballot in the ordinary return envelope — your ballot will be deemed a “naked ballot.” And, according to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, election officials will have to throw it out.
The reason for the secrecy envelope, in theory, is to preserve the secret ballot and to prevent potential fraud. That is: once election officials receive the mail-in ballot, they use the outer envelope to verify that the person voting is registered and hasn’t already voted, without being able to see who the vote is for. Only later will the secrecy envelope actually be opened and counted.
But the risk is that if the rule is implemented very strictly, many voters’ non-fraudulent ballots will be thrown out on what’s essentially a technicality, simply because they misunderstood the rules.
So in the wake of the state Supreme Court ruling on the topic last week, Democrats are calling on the Republican-controlled state legislature to change the law to allow naked ballots to be counted. Yet GOP legislators do not seem eager to take any such step. (Both sides suspect discarding naked ballots will disadvantage Democrats more than Republicans, since more Biden supporters have told pollsters they are interested in voting by mail.)
And this could potentially be very consequential. A Philadelphia official recently raised concerns that as many as 100,000 “naked ballots” could be thrown out — and pointed out that Donald Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by just 44,000 votes.”