Victory for Mail-in-Ballot Accuracy

A U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that accuracy and election laws do matter, overturning a lower court decision. This 2-1 decision means Pennsylvania may continue to reject mail-in ballots with missing or incorrect dates.

This decision is a great victory for the rule of law. The date on the envelope confirms that the ballot was sent in a timely manner and is a required part of the vote-by-mail process. Voting is a right for every eligible U.S. citizen, however, there is nothing in the Constitution saying voting by mail is part of that right. 

In 2020 Pennsylvania passed no-excuse absentee voting, allowing anyone to vote by mail. That law also required that a citizen choosing to vote by mail must follow the mail-in ballot requirements. The new privilege came with some guardrails to try and protect accuracy and transparency.

In 2022 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that 10,000 mail-in ballots should be rejected based on the date, or lack thereof. Then, U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter ruled that they should be counted, claiming that rejecting them is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the date is not material to the person’s qualification to vote. The Republican National Committee who filed the initial lawsuit appealed the ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court who ruled in favor of rejecting the ballots. 

This is not the first time this issue has gone through the courts. Another case involving ballot envelopes without dates went to the U.S. Supreme Court which vacated a lower court decision to count the ballots but did not offer an opinion. 

It is likely that this issue will once again reach the U.S. Supreme Court. For the sake of election integrity and maintaining the public trust, the requirement of a date on the envelope must stand. If not, the next thing to go could be the signature, then more safeguards will fall. The line must be held.