2024 Election Takes Major Turn After Judge's Huge Ruling

2024 Election Takes Major Turn After Judge's Huge Ruling

A recent federal judge’s ruling in a Pennsylvania case regarding undated mail-in votes is poised to have lasting implications for future electoral processes.

Interestingly, then-President Donald Trump appointed registered Democrat Susan Paradise Baxter as a U.S. District Judge in 2018. Baxter's ruling declared Pennsylvania's requirement for dated ballots to be counted as a violation of federal law.

“The Court has determined that the Commonwealth’s rigid enforcement of its date requirement breaches the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act,” Baxter stated in her decision.

“Since the Court is confident in granting the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on these grounds, there is no need to address their constitutional argument, and the Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim will be dismissed,” she added.

Following a concession by the Republican candidate in a local race involving ballots for a Pennsylvania county judge, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling in 2022.

Moreover, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch have expressed their view that ballots lacking handwritten dates do not violate the Civil Rights Act.

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP and the Democratic Party’s campaign committees for Senate and House candidates were among the plaintiffs in Baxter’s case. Their contention is based on the argument that undated ballots would infringe upon the 1964 Civil Rights Act's provisions, which prohibit disenfranchisement due to an "error or omission" in any voting-related process if such a mistake is not significant in determining eligibility to vote.

It’s worth noting that a majority of mail-in voters are Democrats, despite Republicans expressing reservations about this method. Concerns about mail-in voting escalated during the 2020 election and became central to allegations of voter fraud.

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of counting undated mail-in ballots in a contentious local election in Pennsylvania, with a 6-3 decision that carries implications for tightly contested races in the upcoming midterm elections in November.

“Against the dissent of three justices, the Court upheld a federal appeals court decision that deeming ballots received on time but lacking a handwritten date on the return envelope as ineligible would violate federal voting rights,” according to ABC News. While election officials typically date and postmark ballots upon receipt, Pennsylvania state law mandates voters to include a date next to their signature. The appeals court determined that the absence of a handwritten date was a minor error.

“The Supreme Court did not provide detailed reasoning for its decision to allow ballot counting to proceed, and it does not set binding precedent. However, it indicates that a majority of justices support the view that rejecting ballots over minor administrative errors would undermine voting rights,” the report continued.

Alito voiced his disagreement with the Third Circuit's opinion, stating that it is “highly likely incorrect.”

“When a mail-in ballot is rejected due to incomplete completion, it does not constitute a denial of 'the right to vote.' Instead, the individual’s vote is not counted because of failure to adhere to ballot casting rules,” Alito argued.

Similar cases involving mail-in ballots have surfaced in various state courts.

Just weeks before the October 2022 midterm elections, a Wisconsin judge denied a Democratic-backed effort to allow incomplete witness addresses on absentee ballots to be counted. The judge reasoned that this would disrupt the election process and lead to confusion, given the imminent voting timeframe.

The Wisconsin Legislature, controlled by Republicans, prevailed in the case, as the court’s decision favored maintaining the status quo regarding witness address requirements on absentee ballots.

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