Friday, March 29, 2024

Federal Court Makes Major Ruling on Ballot Verification in Pennsylvania

By Katie Pavlich |

AP Photo/Ben Gray

As a result of an appeal filed by the Republican National Committee, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 late Wednesday that mail-in ballots without dates or with unqualified dates cannot be counted in Pennsylvania elections. 

"In the November 2020 and November 2022 elections, thousands of Pennsylvania mail-in voters did not comply with the date requirement. Some voters omitted the date altogether, others put shortened or obviously incorrect dates. As county boards took different approaches to enforcing the date requirement, litigation began, and the Materiality Provision took center stage. A panel of this Court ruled this federal law does apply outside the voter registration context and was violated by the date requirement now (again) before us. But that decision has since been vacated as moot by the Supreme Court. Ritter v. Migliori, 143 S. Ct. 297 (2022)," the ruling states

"The validity of enforcing the date requirement thus remained uncertain as a matter of federal law. But the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania soon settled the issue for state law purposes. See Ball v. Chapman, 289 A.3d 1, 20-23 (Pa. 2023). It unanimously agreed the command in Pennsylvania’s Election Code that mail-in voters 'shall . . . date' the declaration was 'unambiguous and mandatory' as a matter of  statutory interpretation; so omitting the date, or incorrectly dating the return envelope, 'render[s] a ballot invalid” under Pennsylvania law,' the ruling continues. 

The RNC is declaring a victory for election integrity. 

“This is a crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence in the Keystone State and nationwide. Pennsylvanians deserve to feel confident in the security of their mail ballots, and this 3rd Circuit ruling roundly rejects unlawful left-wing attempts to count undated or incorrectly dated mail ballots. Republicans will continue to fight and win for election integrity in courts across the country ahead of the 2024 election," RNC Chairman Michael Whatley released in a statement. 



GOP Gets Big Election Integrity Victory in Pennsylvania, as Dems Seethe From Losses

By Bonchie |

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

A GOP-led effort in Pennsylvania has prevailed after an appeals court ruled that undated (and arguably unverified) mail-in ballots can not be counted. That comes after a years-long legal battle led by various left-wing activist groups, including the ACLU and the NAACP.

Pennsylvania mail-in ballots that are not dated on the outside envelope by the voter should not be counted even if they arrive at a county election office on time, a three-judge appeals court panel ruled on Wednesday.

The 2-1 decision from the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down a lower court ruling and sets up a potential Supreme Court battle over Pennsylvania’s mail-ballots that began in 2020, and will almost certainly affect how the swing state’s ballots are handled in the upcoming presidential election.

The case was brought based on a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that doesn't allow the disqualification of someone's right to vote based on error or omission “on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting."

The 2-1 decision was handed down by three Democrat appointees, with the majority finding that while the above provision stops the disqualification of someone's ability to vote, it does not apply to how votes are counted. In other words, the date issue is a state requirement qualifying the actual ballot as valid instead of being an issue of one's voter registration and ability to cast a ballot. 

Still, the ACLU and the other plaintiffs are vowing to keep fighting.

Ari Savitzky, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who argued the case before the 3rd Circuit said Wednesday the organization was considering all of its options.

“The thousands of voters affected here are eligible and registered,” Savitzky said in a statement. “They completed their mail ballots, signed the return envelope, and got their ballots in on time. Their votes should count.  We strongly disagree with the panel majority’s conclusion that voters may be disenfranchised for a minor paperwork error like forgetting to write an irrelevant date on the return envelope of their mail ballot.  We are considering all of our options at this time.  And we will not stop fighting for voters.”

 This could eventually get to the Supreme Court, though there's reason to doubt that the conservative majority would side with the left-wing activist groups. Pennsylvania state law specifically denotes that a date is required as part of the verification process. It is not ambiguous, and to suggest that something as simple as a date requirement for ballot verification violates federal law is to suggest that all requirements somehow do so. It's a nonsensical argument and completely arbitrary.

Meanwhile, Marc Elias, whose group has been behind many of these challenges to election security, faced defeat in South Carolina. A federal court ruled that the state can use its existing congressional maps for the 2024 election. That came after a challenge asserting that the maps violate federal law regarding representation. 

In short, it hasn't been a good day for the Democrat legal agenda. When Elias is seething, that means something good happened.

That any of this is an argument remains baffling. Why would anyone object to ballots being validated based on the plain letter of the law? Should a person be able to vote after election day too? Should they be able to write their vote on the back of a napkin, take a picture of it, and text it in? 

Hopefully, these victories are just two of many to come. Democrats are doing everything they can to water down even the most basic election security laws and rig congressional maps in their favor. Asking why would be prudent.