Mailed ballots that arrive on time but in undated envelopes handwritten by Pennsylvania voters should be counted, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a case likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter is expected to be appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before ultimately reaching the Supreme Court, whose final say on what are often referred to as “undated ballots” may be to determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election and other key upcoming elections in the swing state.
The plaintiffs in this pair of lawsuits — including the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP and the Democratic Campaign Committees for U.S. House and Senate candidates — argue that ballots in return envelopes with no handwritten date or with an incorrect date should not be disqualified from the 2022 midterm elections and future Pennsylvania races .
While these handwritten dates are required by Pennsylvania State Law, they are not used to confirm whether a person is eligible to vote. Counties have included ballots arriving in undated or incorrectly dated return envelopes in the final vote totals for previous elections.
Not counting such ballots, the plaintiffs argue, would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that a person’s right to vote cannot be denied for “an error or omission” that is “not material ” when determining voting rights.
The Republican National Committee and other GOP groups have joined the cause in opposing counting ballots without handwritten dates or those that are incorrectly dated.
For the 2022 midterm elections, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans in mail-in votes in Pennsylvania and nationally, according to the United States Elections Project’s analysis.
In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling in a similar case regarding ballots for a county judge in Pennsylvania after the Republican candidate conceded. Three of the high court’s conservative justices — Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — have indicated they are not convinced that disqualifying ballots for missing handwritten dates violates the Civil Rights Act.
Edited by Benjamin Swasey