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September 28, 2020

Politicians get naked to raise awareness of Pa.'s ballot secrecy envelopes

As fears about disqualified ballots grow, elected officials go nude for voter education

Election 2020 Ballots
Hallam Naked Ballots @bethanyhallam/Twitter

From left to right, Pennsylvania state House candidate Emily Kinkaid and Allegheny County Councilmembers Olivia 'Liv' Bennett and Bethany Hallam participate in a voter education campaign to raise awareness about naked ballots in the 2020 election.

A group of Pennsylvania lawmakers are stripping down to ensure that voters properly submit their mail-in ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

Concern has grown over the past week about the potential for thousands of so-called "naked ballots" to be disqualified as a result of a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling.

Mail-in voters are required to enclose their ballots within two envelopes, including a secrecy envelope, in order to maintain anonymity. Ballots that are received with only one envelope will not be counted.

With Pennsylvania shaping up to be a decisive battleground state in the presidential race, Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam launched an outreach campaign featuring elected officials in the nude.

Joining Hallam in the first round of the campaign are Allegheny County Council member Olivia "Liv" Bennett and state House of Representatives candidate Emily Kinkead, who's running for the 20th district seat in Allegheny County.

"There’s a lot misinformation going around about mail-in voting," Hallam told TribLive. "It’s brand new. Most voters, this is the first time they’re ever voting by mail. I reached out to my friends who are elected officials, as well, and I was like, ‘Hey, I have this wild idea. Let’s get naked to try to save our democracy.'"

Etna Councilwoman Jessica Semler, state Rep. Sara Innamorato and Duquesne Mayor Nickole Nesby are expected to join the #dressyourballot campaign on Monday.

Reactions to the the edgy photos have ranged on Twitter.

Hallam had an interesting journey to becoming an Allegheny County Councilmember. She is open about her recovery from opioid addiction and previous run-ins with the law, which occurred during a period when she was living out of a car and squatting. 

As she worked on achieving sobriety, she was supported by local Democratic officials who encouraged her to become active in local committee work. She was elected to Council last year. 

Pennsylvania is expected to have razor-thin margins in this year's presidential election, prompting Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley to write a letter last week urging reconsideration of the naked ballot ruling. 

It doesn't appear that a change to that rule is coming, so Hallam and her colleagues will be getting naked to get the word out.