Appeals court says undated Pennsylvania ballots should not be counted

by | Mar 28, 2024

A federal appeals panel has initiated a possible U.S. Supreme Court fight concerning Pennsylvania's mail-in ballots, a matter that could influence the outcome of this year's presidential election and other races in the crucial swing state.

According to a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, mailed ballots in Pennsylvania that arrive on time but are contained in envelopes bearing incorrect dates or lacking handwritten dates should not be tallied. The panel's decision, voted 2-1, overturns a previous ruling by a lower court.

Pennsylvania state law mandates a current, handwritten date on the return envelope; though this date is not utilized to verify a person's eligibility to vote. In previous elections, county election officials have included ballots arriving in undated or misdated return envelopes in the final vote tallies.

In the majority opinion, 3rd U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro noted that the materiality provision, as it's known in legal circles, only applies when the State is determining who may vote.

“In other words, its role stops at the door of the voting place. The Provision does not apply to rules, like the date requirement, that govern how a qualified voter must cast his ballot for it to be counted,” Ambro wrote.

Ambro is an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, and was joined by Biden appointee Circuit Judge Cindy Chung.

The Republican National Committee spearheaded this appeal to the 3rd Circuit and has indicated its anticipation that this legal dispute will ultimately escalate to the Supreme Court.

During the 2022 general election, officials invalidated over 10,000 ballots due to the absence of a correctly handwritten date on the return envelope, as reported by Pennsylvania's secretary of the commonwealth. Recent election data from the MIT Election Data and Science Lab indicates that mail voting has been more prevalent among Democrats than Republicans.

Pennsylvania officials have undertaken a recent redesign of the outer envelopes for mail-in ballots in an effort to prompt voters to include the current date beneath their signatures.

Source: NPR

 

 

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