Federal judge says mistakenly-dated mail-in ballots should count

November 22, 2023

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Tuesday that officials should count mail-in ballots with missing or incorrect dates on their outer envelopes, since the date is not material to proving a voter’s eligibility.

Judge Susan Paradise Baxter of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania said in a 77-page opinion that disqualifying ballots because of such missing or incorrect dates violated the voting protections of the Civil Rights Act. 

“The provision protects a citizen’s right to vote by forbidding a state actor from disqualifying a voter because of their failure to provide or error in providing some unnecessary information on a voting application or ballot,” Judge Baxter, an Obama appointee, wrote in her opinion, adding that “the ballots of the individual plaintiffs should be counted because their statutory rights have been violated.”

The legal battle over Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballots has been raging for some time. Last year, 14 current and former GOP state lawmakers filed a lawsuit in the state in the wake of former President Trump’s  baseless claims of election fraud following his 2020 election defeat.

The Republicans had asserted that the court must invalidate the state law because two earlier court decisions triggered a provision written into it that says it is “void” if any of its requirements are struck down in court.

However, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania rejected their efforts to throw out the state’s broad mail-in ballot law. 

And during the 2022 midterms, the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary came to a head between its two front-runners, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was endorsed by Trump, and hedge fund CEO David McCormick, with Republicans backing Oz—including RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel—labeling the votes of their fellow Republicans invalid.

Oz won the primary by less than 1,000 votes in a recount, but ultimately lost the Senate seat to then-Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D). 

Tuesday’s ruling by Judge Baxter comes roughly two months after Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) announced a plan to make it easier for citizens to register to vote when getting or renewing their driver’s license.

Pennsylvania was considered a key swing state ahead of the 2020 Presidential election,  and in fact it was President Biden’s 80,000+ vote lead in Pennsylvania that finalized his victory over former President Trump on November 7 that year—four days after Election Day. 

PHOTO: Mail-in ballot at dropbox, October 2020

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