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RNC mail ballot case dismissed by PA court Spotlight PA

This article is Spotlight PAcollaboration with vote beat, a bipartisan news agency covering local election administration and voting.This article may be reprinted under the terms of Votebeat reissue policy.

Pennsylvania’s patchwork ballot rectification policy remains intact, at least for now, following last week’s state appeals court ruling.

Federal Judge Ellen Seisler dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by the Republican National Committee, arguing that counties that allowed voters to correct errors in their vote-by-mail ballots violated state election laws. Ceisler made no determination on the facts of the case, but a federal court ruled that it was not the proper venue.

The RNC is still considering whether to appeal Ceisler’s decision to the state Supreme Court, but the Board of Elections fears the decision could lead the county to file more lawsuits in district court. doing.

In Pennsylvania, those voting by mail must seal their ballot in an inner confidential envelope and sign and date the outer envelope. If you fail to vote, county elections officials must destroy your ballot.

However, some counties in the state will notify voters when there is a disqualification issue with a mail-in ballot.

According to Spotlight PA and Votebeat research, 12 counties to allow ballot curing in November 2022 electionEight of those counties have notified voters of the error.

Meanwhile, other counties did not allow voters to amend their vote-by-mail ballots, creating an unequal situation for voters statewide.

In 2022, the RNC named then acting U.S. Secretary of State Lee Chapman and later her successor Al Schmidt as parties. The group argued that the county board of elections was a regional agency of the State Department, and therefore a state agency, giving jurisdiction to federal courts.

However, Ceisler held that the county elections office was actually a local government agency and that the courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the underlying arguments. she writes

Forrest Lehman, election administrator for Lycoming County, who granted a cure in November 2022, believes the ruling is even more confusing. With political parties now directed to file lawsuits at the local level, he expects county election departments to see more lawsuits from both opponents and supporters of ballot rectification.

“No matter what the county does, someone will sue you,” he said.

Vic Walzak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania, said Seisler “used this jurisdictional ruling to circumvent an underlying problem.”

The RNC argued that viewing a postal ballot to determine whether it was unsigned or properly dated constituted a prohibited “inspection” of the ballot prior to Election Day. .

“It’s the same as people forgetting to press the ‘vote’ button and the poll worker saying, ‘Hey, you forgot to press the vote,'” Walczak said. , if the county does not permit the correction of such errors, the eligible voter will have his or her ballot discarded.

As of now, the legal issues raised by the lawsuit remain unresolved.Recent Lawsuits Filed at the County Level Regarding Recount Petitions resulted in conflicting rulings from federal court, and it can also occur during hardening.

“The underlying issues are very important and need to be resolved quickly,” said Walczak. “Under current law, some countries allow voters to receive treatment, others notify them of errors, and others do neither. We really need a court to find out.”

Carter Walker is a Votebeat reporter affiliated with Spotlight PA.contact carter cwalker@votebeat.org.

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/03/pa-election-mail-ballot-curing-lawsuit-commonwealth-court/ RNC mail ballot case dismissed by PA court Spotlight PA

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