Pennsylvania voters urged to verify details as court voids undated ballots

Voters in Pennsylvania are being urged to write dates on mail-in ballot envelopes after a court ruled undated ballots cannot be counted in the Nov. 8 midterm election.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday to force county election officials to “separate and keep” the undated or misdated ballots instead of counting them in next week’s midterm elections, according to the Associated Press (AP). Because the disputed ballots are preserved, they could potentially still be added in later vote counts, likely pending a “healing process” and the outcome of additional court challenges.

In the 2020 election, nearly twice as many Democrats than Republicans voted by mail, according to a report by MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab. While it’s unclear if the party split will be the same in this year’s election and the number of undated absentee ballots is expected to be low, the legal action to reject the ballots was initiated by Republicans who could benefit from the ruling.

Pennsylvania Election Undated ballots ruling Democrat-Republican
A poll worker is pictured at a ballot processing center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2022. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that undated or misdated mail-in ballots should be set aside instead of being counted at this year’s midterms.

Daniel Mallinson, an assistant professor of public policy and administration at Penn State University in Harrisburg, said news week that the decision was “an important decision for the upcoming election,” while noting that the issue “has been a contentious issue in Pennsylvania for some time.”

“To my knowledge, there aren’t many of these ballots, so they probably won’t affect big races like the governor’s or the US Senate’s, but they can be important in more local races,” Mallinson said. “For smaller races that are close together, the undated post in ballots could make a difference.”

Mallinson said the issue reminded him of a “bare ballot” dispute ahead of the 2020 election, in which voters sent back mail-in ballots in the wrong envelope. He said “several awareness campaigns” have been launched to educate voters on how to return their ballots at this time, while Tuesday’s decision may have come too late to educate voters.

“This scheduling decision comes just a week before the election,” Mallinson said. “So it’s late in the game to do that kind of voter work.”

With the election just a week away, Democrats and advocacy groups urged voters to remember to correctly date their ballot envelopes after the verdict is announced. Some suggested the decision would “disfranchise” voters.

“We’re making sure that Pennsylvania voters at the World Series know exactly where to go for all the information they need to vote,” said the Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee tweeted while sharing a link to a voting guide and a photo of the guide advertised outside of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

“We are disappointed,” said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania tweeted. “No one should be disenfranchised over an irrelevant technicality.”

“We will continue to fight to ensure that every valid vote counts. In the meantime, here’s how to make sure your postal or absentee ballot is counted,” according to the Pennsylvania ACLU added while sharing a previous tweet instructing voters on how to properly date their envelopes.

“The reason Republicans fought so hard in PA courts to throw out ballots on which everything is perfectly correct but the voter forgot to write the date was simply because they know more Ds are voting by mail as Rs.” tweeted Commentator and former federal prosecutor Ron Filipkowski. “Date your ballots and double-check them if you think you’ve forgotten them.”

Prominent GOP figures hailed the court’s decision Tuesday as a victory for “election integrity.”

“The @GOP, @NRCC and @PAGOP just won a MASSIVE election victory in Pennsylvania,” said Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted. “The PA Supreme Court agrees that false or undated mail-in ballots cannot be counted in next week’s election. The Republicans went to court. Now Democrats must obey the law.”

“Today’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law” tweeted Retiring Pennsylvania GOP US Senator Pat Toomey. “Pennsylvania law is clear: absentee ballot envelopes must be dated. Counting undated ballots would be against the law. Not a tight decision.”

“A Victory for Electoral Integrity!” tweeted Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled today that undated ballots must be separated and not counted. #ElectionIntegrity”

Some conservatives celebrated the ruling while citing false claims of a “rigged” 2020 presidential election.

“This is indeed a massive backlash for the Marxist Democrats who felt they had rigged another election,” said former Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs tweeted. “The RNC finally got involved!” Pennsylvania voters urged to verify details as court voids undated ballots

Rick Schindler

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