A statewide coalition of nonpartisan community organizations sued Pennsylvania Secretary of State Al Schmidt and election officials in Philadelphia and Allegheny County on Tuesday, demanding an end to the disqualification of mail-in ballots for inconsequential date errors.

The groups, which include the Black Political Empowerment Project, POWER Interfaith, Make the Road Pennsylvania, OnePA Activists United, New PA Project Education Fund, Casa San José, Pittsburgh United, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Common Cause Pennsylvania, say the practice violates the fundamental right to vote in free and equal elections guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed on the coalition’s behalf by attorneys from the Public Interest Law Center and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, joined by pro bono co-counsel from Arnold & Porter.

According to the plaintiffs, thousands of Pennsylvania voters have their mail-in ballots rejected each year solely because of a small mistake: writing an incorrect date, or no date at all, on their ballot envelope. Election officials do not use the date to determine whether the ballot was returned on time, as ballots must be received by county boards of election by 8 p.m. on Election Day, regardless of the date handwritten on the envelope. Also, the date is not used to determine voter eligibility, but the requirement caused the rejection of at least 10,000 ballots from voters who had submitted their mail-in ballots on time in the 2022 general election.

“Our state constitution is clear: every vote matters in Pennsylvania,” said Ben Geffen, senior attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “Procedures that needlessly block even a single eligible voter from exercising that most fundamental right are suspect. This pointless handwritten date requirement – which every year causes thousands of eligible voters’ ballots to be rejected for harmless clerical errors – cannot continue in Pennsylvania.”

A disproportionate share of rejected ballots come from older voters: in the 2022 general election in Philadelphia, voters over age 50 cast 72 percent of mail-in ballots—and 81 percent of mail-in ballots that were rejected for clerical errors. An investigation from Votebeat found black and Latino communities, along with communities with higher poverty rates, face higher rates of ballot rejection for mail-in ballot errors.

“Pennsylvania should be making it easier to vote, not more difficult,” said Mike Lee, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “This arbitrary handwritten date requirement has already disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters in the commonwealth. With such high stakes in the 2024 election, Pennsylvania counties must do everything they can to ensure that every vote is counted.”

This Pennsylvania state case is separate from a federal lawsuit challenging the date requirement filed by the NAACP, which claimed that the requirement violates federal civil rights law. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the date rules, but proceedings in that case are ongoing.

“Refusing to count a person’s vote because of a minor technicality undermines fair elections by disenfranchising voters who deserve to have their voices heard,” said Diana Robinson, co-deputy director for Make the Road Pennsylvania. “Who among us hasn’t miswritten the date? It’s a common error that hardly disqualifies an eligible voter. If your ballot is received on time, the date written on the paper is irrelevant.”

“Today marks a crucial step in protecting the right to vote for all Pennsylvanians,” said Maria Delgado-Santana, president of League of Women Voters of PA. “Rejecting thousands of mail-in ballots due to minor date errors is an unjust barrier that undermines our democracy. The League of Women Voters of PA and our partners are committed to ending this disenfranchisement and ensuring every eligible vote counts. Every Pennsylvanian deserves to have their voice heard in free and fair elections, without being silenced by bureaucratic technicalities.”

“Allegheny County is committed to ensuring voters have the information they need to properly complete their ballots and has consistently had a robust cure process so that voters can correct inadvertent errors such as having an incomplete date or signature on the ballot return envelope,” county spokesperson Abigail Gardner told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Steve Ulrich is the managing editor of PoliticsPA.

This article was originally published in PoliticsPA.

5 thoughts on “Lawsuit calls for end of disqualification for date errors on mail ballots”

  1. This scam is known as “sue and settle”; it’s an end-around the legislative process.
    Typically, Marxist groups like the ones above collude with Democrats or RINOs like Schmidt. The fix is already in: Schmidt will settle, and Presto! – the law will change.
    This is one variation of the lawfare that the Democrats have waged against traditional norms, without accountability to the voters.
    Democrats fought to disbar Republican lawyers who questioned the last election.
    Republicans ought to have the courage to reciprocate over lawfare.

  2. “This Pennsylvania state case is separate from a federal lawsuit challenging the date requirement filed by the NAACP, which claimed that the requirement violates federal civil rights law.” Both lawsuits are about the same topic, one is a federal lawsuit, and one is a PA state case. On the surface I’m inclined to agree: why are these mail-in ballots rejected each year solely because of a small mistake: writing an incorrect date, or no date at all, on their ballot envelope? After all, election officials do not use the date to determine whether the ballot was returned on time, as ballots must be received by county boards of election by 8 p.m. on Election Day, regardless of the date handwritten on the envelope. Also, the date is not used to determine voter eligibility, but the requirement caused the rejection of at least 10,000 ballots from voters who had submitted their mail-in ballots on time in the 2022 general election.
    These lawsuits are a smokescreen. They make it seem like mail-in ballots are legitimate. It is a designed ruse to make it seem like the issues are being reasonably debated. They are not. The entire process is a joke and there is no way to determine if any of these mail-in ballots are legitimate or not. That is why France rejected this as a vote counting process decades ago.

    1. And don’t forget all of our good Pennsylvania Republican representatives (including the last Republican nominee for Governor) who voted for the law that made all of this possible.

      1. Frank, You are correct. Republicans are basically the same as Democrats. The idea that Citizens United opened the donation floodgates to 21st century corporations is a myth. Citizens United enabled small groups of the very wealthy of the right and left to have undue influence over politics. Basically 100 top donors have been responsible for two-thirds to three-quarters of all the money raised by super PACs, greatly exceeding the amount given by corporations. If you can find their names you might see a pattern: Sheldon Adelson, the founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (now many have gambling apps on their phones); Bloomberg (why is too big to fail an accepted idea?); Steyer (hedge funds destroyed middle class manufacturing); Soros (liberal financier that literally made his fortune working for CIA to topple various governments and speculate on currencies); Jeff Bezos (how much legacy media does he control?) No, the commonality is not that they are “Jewish.” The commonality is we let our politicians become purchased and controlled by godless gas lighters who do not love the United States of America. They are mostly old people, focused on exercising power over their fellow citizens, and do not care about long term consequences for this country.

  3. The law requires the ballot be dated. Why is that such a big deal for Democrats? If people can’t follow the law, their vote should not be counted.

    This issue must be very important for Democrats because they have now filed about 50 lawsuits against it.

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