Federal Court Upholds Major Ruling In Swing-State Mail-In Ballot Case

Federal Court Upholds Major Ruling In Swing-State Mail-In Ballot Case

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to reconsider a previous decision upholding a requirement that voters write dates on mail-in ballots in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

A 3rd Circuit panel decided in late March that the state’s date requirement on mail-in ballots doesn’t violate the Civil Rights Act. The 3rd Circuit decided not to rehear the case en banc, maintaining that mail-in ballots must have the correct date on the outside envelopes in order to be counted.

“[I]n the above-entitled case having been submitted to the judges who participated in the decision of this Court and to all the other available circuit judges of the circuit in regular active service, and no judge who concurred in the decision having asked for rehearing, and a majority of the judges of the circuit in regular service not having voted for rehearing, the petitions for rehearing by the panel and the Court en banc, are denied,” the court wrote.

U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter ruled in November that mail-in ballots without a proper date should still be counted if received in time, arguing that rejecting them would violate the Civil Rights Act, according to CBS News. Baxter cited the more than 7,600 mail-in ballots across 12 counties that were tossed in the 2022 midterms for lacking or having incorrect dates.

Subsequently, the appeals court decided that the Civil Rights Act wasn’t applicable to ballot dates, but instead “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,” Judge Thomas 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.”

Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the most competitive battleground states in 2024 at the presidential and congressional level. Former President Donald Trump currently leads President Joe Biden by one point in the RealClearPolitics average, and lost the state in 2020 by only 81,660 votes.