U.S. Appeals Court Rules Pennsylvania Can Deny Undated Mail-In Ballots

An election worker opens envelopes containing vote-by-mail ballots for the August 4 Washington state primary at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on August 3, 2020.A sign explaining signature verification is pictured as vote-by-mail ballots for the August 4 Washington state primary are processed at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on August 3, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s James Meyers
1:50 PM -Friday, March 29, 2024

A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania ruled that mail-in ballots must have handwritten dates on the outside envelopes. 


On Wednesday, a split 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold the mandate of the required date on return envelopes, a mandate that caused thousands of votes to be invalid in the 2022 election. 

The ruling comes after a lower court judge ruled in November of last year that even without proper dates on the mail-in-ballots they should still be counted as legal votes if they are received in time. U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter said the envelope date is unrelated in helping election officials decide whether or not a ballot was received in time or if a voter is qualified. 

Pennsylvania is considered a key state for the upcoming presidential election, with its Electoral College votes being up for grabs. 

Judge Thomas Ambro of the court said in the ruling that the section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that the lower court relied upon does not pertain to ballot-casting rules, such as dates on envelopes, but “is concerned only with the process of determining a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.”

“The Pennsylvania General Assembly has decided that mail-in voters must date the declaration on the return envelope of their ballot to make their vote effective,” Ambro wrote. “The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania unanimously held this ballot-casting rule is mandatory; thus, failure to comply renders a ballot invalid under Pennsylvania law.”

However, opposition to the ruling claim that thousands of voters will be unaccounted for in what they believe is a meaningless error.

“We strongly disagree with the panel majority’s conclusion that voters may be disenfranchised for a minor paperwork error like forgetting to write an irrelevant date on the return envelope of their mail ballot,” Ari Savitzky, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who argued the appeal, said in a statement. “We are considering all of our options at this time.”

The Republican National Committee called the decision a “crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence.”

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