Election Officials Should Not Count Undated Vote By Mail Ballots November 8 Pennsylvania Superior Court Rules Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has ordered counties to “refrain from counting” undated or incorrectly dated mail-in ballots in next week’s election.

However, more lawsuits are possible.

After Chief Justice Max Baer died in September, judges reduced the membership by one and divided the tribunal over whether counting undated or incorrectly-dated mail-in ballots violated federal civil rights law. I got stuck at 3. He also told county elections officials not to count undated or incorrectly dated ballots, but to keep those ballots separate.

This could mean federal courts ruled differently, leaving judges open to ordering separate ballot tallies after the election.

The judge has not yet released the full reasons behind the decision in this case.

In Tuesday’s order, they believe Democratic judges Debra Todd, Kristin Donoghue, and David Wecht violate federal law by throwing out ballots based on date requirements, but Democrat Kevin Doherty and Republicans Sally Updike Mundy and Kevin Blobson think otherwise.

The ballot in question arrived at the county elections office on time and was otherwise valid, but the outer envelope was undated or contained an incorrect date. The question of whether they should count has led to years of litigation and no firm legal consensus.

Prior to court ruling, its precarious legal status was created A confusing situation for county officials Determines whether undated votes are counted.

Their most explicit direction came from the Pennsylvania State Department, which has responded to two federal court rulings ordering counties to count undated and incorrectly dated ballots. issued non-binding guidance. Most counties planned to follow that guidance in this election.

The county has also generally accepted incorrectly dated ballots in the past.

This latest lawsuit, filed just over two weeks ago, comes from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Pennsylvania Republican Party, and some Republican voters. Submit what is known as the King’s Bench Petition to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Petitions of this kind ask state high courts to use their own power to bypass lower courts and address particularly important issues directly.court Granted Republican demands on October 21.

Since 2020, Republicans in Pennsylvania have generally called for the undated ballots to be destroyed. This issue is very partisan. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote by mail.

Republican attorneys in the case said that when they passed a state law that voters “must complete, date, and sign an affidavit” printed on the ballot’s outer envelope, the general meeting meant ” It couldn’t have been clearer.” There is no valid reason for a court to rule differently.

They also wrote that the date substantially helped determine whether a vote should be accepted, sparking a controversial debate known as the doctrine of the “independent legislature.” Claim the state legislature to be the ultimate authority in election matters Pennsylvania’s executive and judicial branches do not have the authority to review Congress’ decisions.

Since 2020, the Democratic administration in Pennsylvania has argued that undated or misdated mail-in ballots should be counted. A central premise of their position is that Pennsylvania’s election laws should be interpreted to give more people the right to vote, and decades of court rulings have done so.

“If given a choice, courts should prioritize interpretations of the law that ‘support basic voting rights and entitle voters to vote rather than disenfranchise them,’” the administration’s attorney said. wrote in its latest opinion to the Supreme Court.Quote 2020 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Election Decision.

State attorneys also say state law requires voters to “mark” their vote-by-mail ballots with a date, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that undated ballots must be destroyed. Another part of the ballot, they argued, states that county election officials should not destroy a ballot if the voter declaration on the ballot’s outer envelope is “sufficient.” They argued that historical interpretations of the code indicated that the date requirement was actually an artifact.

The case was effectively resolved at the state level, allowing a federal court to determine how Pennsylvania should handle undated or incorrectly dated ballots by mail.

There are already some indications of what federal judges will think of these votes.

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that Pennsylvania’s date requirement was a technical one that served little purpose other than voiding ballots, and that destroying ballots on that basis would not have been possible in 1964. It ruled that undated ballots should be counted because they violate civil rights law. .

But last month, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision For procedural reasons.Although their decision did not touch on the substance of the case, his three of the court’s conservative judges separately they indicated they disagree The Third Circuit has held that the date requirement violates federal law.

>> Read more: Why are undated mail-in ballots so important in Pennsylvania?

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