Pennsylvania Mail-In Ballots Can Be Thrown Out if Dated Incorrectly

( – Pennsylvania election officials are realizing that they have to abide by their own written rules after an appeals court ruled that undated mail-in ballots may not be counted.

In a March 27th ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overrode a lower court’s 2023 decision. That earlier decision had ruled that the state must count undated ballots if they were received in time. The lower court had characterized ballots without dates as a “trivial paperwork” mistake. It then went further, arguing that requiring the signatures somehow violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This latest ruling from the appeals court (a 2-1 decision) reverses that, and points to state law enacted by the legislature. State law requires mail-in ballots to have a signature and a written date in order to be counted as valid. The appeals court wrote that, because the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had established that this law mandated these signatures (it’s not an optional suggestion), the ballots must include them.

Pennsylvania passed a law in 2019 requiring that voters complete their ballots, sign them, and place a handwritten date on the outer envelope.

The rapid changeover to mail-in ballots, sparked by the pandemic, has radically changed the way Americans vote, and almost overnight. Many lawmakers, but especially Republicans, point out the many ways that mailed ballots can be tampered with or otherwise compromise the integrity of elections. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump blames mail-in ballots for his 2020 loss, and said the voting system is “totally corrupt.”

Republican National Committee Chairman praised the ruling, calling it a “crucial victory for election integrity.” He said those in Pennsylvania have a right to know their ballots are secure. He characterized the lower court’s earlier ruling as an example of “unlawful left-wing attempts” to count invalid ballots.

Unsurprisingly, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was disappointed with the ruling. The ACLU, which had participated in the case arguing for the side that wanted undated ballots counted, said voters would suffer as a result of the decision.

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