Appeals Court Rules Pennsylvania Can Deny Certain Mail-In Ballots

A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled that officials can deny mail-in ballots that do not have handwritten dates on the outside of the envelopes.

On Wednesday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a split decision upholding the mandate of requiring the date to be handwritten on mail-in ballots’ return envelopes — a mandate that resulted in thousands of ballots being deemed invalid in the 2022 midterm election.

This ruling overturned a previous decision from a lower court judge, who ruled in November 2023 that mail-in ballots should still be counted as legal votes even without the proper dates, as long as they are received in time. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter — who was initially nominated to her position by former President Barack Obama and later renominated by former President Donald Trump in a bipartisan package of nominees after Obama’s nomination expired — claimed that the envelope date was unrelated to determining whether a ballot was legal.

As Pennsylvania is considered a battleground state in the November presidential election, it is essential that the state tighten up the voting process to ensure election integrity.

Judge Thomas Ambro, of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, explained in the ruling that the section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that Baxter’s ruling relied upon does not pertain to ballot-casting rules such as mandating dates on envelopes, and instead “is concerned only with the process of determining a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.”

“The Pennsylvania General Assembly has decided that mail-in voters must date the declaration on the return envelope of their ballot to make their vote effective,” he wrote. “The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania unanimously held this ballot-casting rule is mandatory; thus, failure to comply renders a ballot invalid under Pennsylvania law.”

While the Republican National Committee (RNC) has declared the decision a “crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence,” the left is outraged — claiming that the rule would lead to thousands of votes not being counted over a supposedly meaningless error.

“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,” Ari Savitzky, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who argued the appeal, declared in a statement. “We are considering all of our options at this time.”

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