Groups Clash in Pennsylvania Court Over Counting of Undated Ballots

Groups Clash in Pennsylvania Court Over Counting of Undated Ballots
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator John Fetterman speaks at a reception for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in Philadelphia on Oct. 28, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Beth Brelje

Several election lawsuits in Pennsylvania continue to argue over whether to count undated or wrongly dated mail-in ballots.

The disagreement lives on a week after the State Supreme Court ordered county boards of elections to refrain from counting any undated or incorrectly date absentee and mail-in ballots received for the Nov. 8 general election.

In its split decision, the court directed counties to segregate and preserve these ballots.

In Pennsylvania, voters must sign and date the outer envelope of their mail-in ballot for it to count.

John Fetterman’s campaign,  joined by the Democrat House and Senate campaign entities, asked a federal court to order counties to count all mail-in ballots, no matter the markings or lack of markings on the envelope.

Fetterman is in a tight U.S. Senate race with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Monroe County Case

Some counties have simply set ballots aside as the court order says, others have allowed voters to go the election office and add a date and signature to their envelope. The contrasting treatment spurred another court filing.

The Monroe County Republican Committee last week asked the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas to issue an injunction to stop the county election board from reaching out to voters with improperly filled out envelopes and allowing them to go to the office and correct the problem so their ballot would count. The GOP argued that this is canvassing ballots early. Counties must keep ballots secure until 7 a.m. on election day when they can start counting mail-in ballots.

But Democrat Judge Arthur Zulick said no to the Republicans, ruling that an injunction a day before the election would cause harm because 150-175 voters had already been told that their ballots needed to be fixed to count, “It would adversely affect the public interest to grant the injunction,” Zulick ruled.

Divided by Party

Opinions on whether to count undated mail-in ballots from voters who did not follow ballot instructions are split by party. Democrats say the ballots should be counted, Republicans say they should not.

The state Supreme Court decision from last week stems from Ball v. Chapman, a case filed Oct. 16 by individual Republicans, the Republican National Committee, and the Pennsylvania Republican Party, in response to guidance from acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, directing all counties to include undated ballots in their official returns for the Nov. 8 election.

This guidance goes against state law, which requires voters to fill out, date, and sign the declaration printed on the envelope provided when submitting a mail-in ballot, the GOP petition said.

Shortly after the original case was filed, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the national arm of the ACLU intervened in the case, on behalf of the Black Political Empowerment Project, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, Make the Road Pennsylvania, and POWER.

ACLU-PA described these left-leaning groups as nonpartisan organizations committed to promoting democracy and ensuring eligible voters are able to vote and have their votes counted.

“With 2022 voting already underway, the disqualification of mail-in ballots without a handwritten date on the return envelope would deeply impact the work of these organizations and could potentially disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvania voters,” ACLU-PA said on its website.

“This action could determine whether thousands of registered Pennsylvania voters will be disenfranchised based on a minor paperwork error that has no bearing on their qualification to vote, the validity of their registration, or the timeliness of their ballot return,” ACLU-PA argued in its intervening papers.

Beth Brelje is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. politics, state news, and national issues. Ms. Brelje previously worked in radio for 20 years and after moving to print, worked at Pocono Record and Reading Eagle. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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