BREAKING: Federal Judge Issues Ruling on Mail-In Ballots Ahead of 2024

BREAKING: Federal Judge Issues Ruling on Mail-In Ballots Ahead of 2024

A federal judge has made a decision in a Pennsylvania case involving undated mail-in ballots, which is expected to significantly impact future elections.

U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, a Democrat appointed by then-President Donald Trump in 2018, determined that Pennsylvania's requirement for ballots to be dated to be counted is in violation of U.S. law.

“The Court has concluded that the Commonwealth’s mandatory application of its date requirement violates the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act,” Baxter stated in her decision.

She further noted, “Since the Court is confident that the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment should be granted on that basis, there is no need to reach their constitutional claim, and the Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim will be dismissed.”

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court nullified a lower court's decision in a related case concerning ballots in a Pennsylvania county judge's election, following the Republican candidate's concession.

Moreover, three Supreme Court justices—Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch—expressed skepticism about the idea that rejecting ballots due to missing handwritten dates breaches the Civil Rights Act.

The plaintiffs in Baxter’s case, which include the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP and the Democratic Party’s campaign committees for U.S. House and Senate candidates, argued that disregarding undated ballots would violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This act prohibits denying the right to vote "because of an error or omission" in any "application, registration, or other act requisite to voting if such error or omission is not material in determining" voter qualification.

It is important to mention that Democratic voters predominantly use mail-in voting, a method that has faced considerable skepticism from Republicans. Concerns over mail-in voting grew during the 2020 election, becoming a central issue in claims of voter fraud.

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to count undated mail-in ballots in a disputed Pennsylvania local election. The 6-3 decision had broader implications for closely contested races in the November midterm elections.

“Over the objection of three justices, the Court restored a federal appeals court ruling that said disqualifying ballots received on time but lacking a handwritten date on the return envelope would violate federal voting rights,” reported ABC News. Despite election officials typically postmarking and dating ballots upon receipt, Pennsylvania state law requires voters to include a date next to their signature. The appeals court ruled that the absence of the handwritten date was an immaterial error.

“The Supreme Court did not elaborate on its decision to allow counting to proceed, and it is not binding precedent. But it does suggest that a majority of justices support the view that discarding ballots over small administrative errors or omissions would harm the franchise,” the report continued.

Justice Alito wrote that he believes the Third Circuit opinion is “very likely wrong.”

“When a mail-in ballot is not counted because it was not filled out correctly, the voter is not denied ‘the right to vote.’ Rather, that individual’s vote is not counted because he or she did not follow the rules for casting a ballot,” Alito wrote.

Similar cases involving mail-in ballots have appeared in courts in other states as well.

In October 2022, less than a month before the midterms, a Wisconsin judge dismissed a Democrat-backed attempt to count absentee ballots with incomplete witness addresses. The judge ruled that changing the status quo close to the election would cause confusion.

This ruling favored the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature, which had intervened in the lawsuit. The case centered on the extent of the address required on an absentee ballot certificate for the ballot to be counted.

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