Pennsylvania Judge Rules Mail-in Ballots Without Accurate Handwritten Dates Must Still be Counted
The ruling states that mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania without accurate handwritten dates on their exterior envelopes must still be counted if they are received in time, concluding that rejecting such ballots violates federal civil rights law. The decision has implications for the 2024 presidential election in a key battleground state where Democrats have been far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans. The ruling came as part of a lawsuit filed over a 2019 state voting law, where U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter ruled that county boards of election may no longer reject mail ballots that lack accurate, handwritten dates on their return envelopes.
Baxter said the date on the envelope is required by state law, but it is irrelevant in helping elections officials decide whether the ballot was received in time or whether the voter is qualified to cast a ballot. In the latest suit, several Pennsylvania groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that refusing to count such ballots “because of a trivial paperwork error” disenfranchises voters and violates provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. The judge, a Trump appointee, sided with these arguments, stating that immaterial errors or omissions should not be used to prevent voting. The suit was filed by state chapters of the NAACP, League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Black Political Empowerment Project, and other groups.
Implications for the Future
This ruling ensures that Pennsylvanians who vote by mail, including senior citizens and voters with disabilities, will not face disenfranchisement because of a trivial mistake in handwriting an irrelevant date on the outer return envelope. Moreover, it makes it easier for people to vote in elections, without placing burdensome identification or paperwork requirements upon them. As it stands, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits states from denying a person’s right to vote due to an error or omission on any record or paper; in Pennsylvania’s case, the date on the outer envelope is irrelevant to determining whether a voter’s mail-in ballot should be counted or not.
This landmark ruling sets a vital precedent for the upcoming 2024 presidential election in favor of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. It puts an emphasis on the importance of counting every vote, especially when it concerns vulnerable groups such as senior citizens and voters with disabilities because throwing out valid votes due to a minor paperwork error is undemocratic and illegal. In the long run, this decision may lead to broader implementation in other states and a shift towards a more accessible and secure voting system.
Long-Tail Keywords: Voting rights in Pennsylvania, U.S. Civil Rights Act, Mail-in ballot counting, Voter Disenfranchisement
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