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U.S. Appeals Court Hears PA Mail Ballot ‘Missing Date’ Case

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

One of the biggest disqualifying errors on mail-in ballots in the Keystone State is “date.”

Some voters see the line asking “what is today’s date”? Some think that it wants the voters’ birthdate. Still others leave the line blank on that return envelope.

It’s now up to a federal appeals court to decide if Pennsylvania voters need to put accurate handwritten dates for the votes to count.

In a dispute that will have ramifications on the 2024 presidential race, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments in Philadelphia Tuesday over a district judge’s ruling in November that even without the proper dates, mail-in ballots should be counted if they are received in time.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Ari Savitzky told the court on behalf of several voter groups that more than 10,000 ballots in Pennsylvania were disqualified in 2022 based on what he called “a meaningless paperwork error.” He argued that the “materiality provision” of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was designed to prevent that.

“An immaterial mistake on a piece of paperwork doesn’t go to the deficiency or validity of the ballot itself,” he argued before the three-judge panel.

“Is there a difference between non-compliance — where you totally leave off the date — and imperfect compliance, where you have the date but you got the year wrong?” asked U.S. Circuit Judge Cindy K. Chung, an appointee of President Joe Biden.

On the question of where judges should draw the line between meaningless and material errors that can render the ballots invalid, John M. Gore, representing state and national Republican groups challenging a district court ruling last year, said “the right to vote is not denied” when the state qualifies someone to vote, sends them a ballot and then rejects the ballot “because they failed to follow Pennsylvania law.”

His position came in response to a November decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, a Trump appointee, who said that mail-in ballots that are submitted on time but missing a handwritten date must be counted by county elections offices. Failure to do so would violate the federal Civil Rights Act, she said.

The Pennsylvania groups challenging the date mandate argue it allows the state to disenfranchise voter over meaningless mistakes, violating provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit was filed by state chapters of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Black Political Empowerment Project and other groups.

According to the evidence in the case, more than 7,600 mail-in ballots from 12 counties were not counted in the 2022 general election. Those included – 1,009 in Allegheny County; 2,617 in Philadelphia; 66 in Washington County and 95 in Westmoreland.

Baxter said elections officials do not use the date on the outer envelope to determine whether the vote should be counted.

“The important date for casting the ballot is the date the ballot is received. Here, the date on the outside envelope was not used by any of the county boards to determine when a voter’s mail ballot was received in the November 2022 election,” Baxter wrote.

Mail-in balloting has been employed mostly by Democrats in the Keystone State. In the recent special election in the 140th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania State House, the victorious Democrat Jim Prokopiak received 3,309 of his 6,489 unofficial votes via mail/absentee ballot, while Republican Candace Cabanas drew just 532 of her 3,083 votes via mail. In 2022, Sen. John Fetterman outpolled Mehmet Oz by 726,000 mail votes, while Gov. Josh Shapiro did even better with 833,000 more mail votes than Doug Mastriano.

6 Responses

  1. How pathetic that votes were not counted in the last election simply because the date was wrong. Could this have been an intentional method used by the Dems to confuse voters particularly the elderly? Remember both the 2020 and 2022 elections took place during the Covid period when many people completed the mail ins to prevent being exposed to Covid. So many were not used to mail ins and how to follow their directions. And they WERE confusing. Leave the date off and insist that all voters with the exception of the infirmed GO TO THE POLLS WITH THEIR VOTER IDS! In addition tell the old people who (have been there for years) are at the polls looking up names in their binders to stop talking to the voters as they are a distraction and very rude. And count ALL VOTES ON ELECTION DAY ONLY! NO BALLOT BOXES!! Republicans—do the right thing—get yourselves to the polls early.

    1. Voting should be easy and convenient. It’s our birthright as Americans and shouldn’t require us to jump through a lot of hoops. We should make both voting by mail and voting in person as easy as possible. Small instances of voter fraud, and that’s all that’s ever been proven – small instances – can well be prosecuted under current law.

    1. Preach! The implication is that people are too stupid to follow rules. Maybe they cannpleas their case of “unintentional mistake” to the cop when they go through a red light. Follow the rules your vote will count. Get a valid ID and you will be able to vote. (Minorities are not dumb or incapable, stop treating them like they are. That is racist!)

      1. The rules have to make sense. Disqualifying a ballot for leaving out information that has no value in demonstrating the validity of the voter’s choice, simply makes no sense in a democracy. Voting shouldn’t be organized as a game which only certain people clever enough to solve a stupid puzzle can win.


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