Federal court rules in favor of Pennsylvania signature verification for mail-in voting, frustrating leftists

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Democratic-appointed judges on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that only those mail-in ballots that are correctly dated can be counted in elections held in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Republican National Committee celebrated the result, suggesting it would bolster voter confidence in the integrity of their elections.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and other leftist outfits alternatively denounced the ruling, intimating the fight to permit the counting of unsound ballots in Pennsylvania is not over.

Background

Following a lawsuit from the Republican National Committee, the Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania,
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered state election officials in November 2022 to refrain from counting any mail-in ballots bearing undated or incorrectly dated envelopes.

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The court had evidently agreed with the Republicans seeking the injunction who argued the “General Assembly could not have been clearer” when it “mandated that a voter who chooses to vote via absentee or mail-in ballot ‘shall … fill out, date and sign the declaration’ printed on the outer envelope of the ballot.”

Since Democrats relied more on mail-in ballots than Republicans in previous years, the ruling was expected to lead to more disqualified Democrat votes in the general election.

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP and other leftist groups subsequently sued Pennsylvania election officials in an effort to force the state to count such invalid mail ballots.

The
original complaint in NAACP v. Schmidt alleged that the refusal to count ballots supposedly mailed on time but lacking a date or incorrectly dated “violates the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act, which makes it unlawful to deny the right to vote based on an ‘error of omission’ on a voting-related ‘record or paper’ that is ‘not material in determining whether [a voter] is qualified under State law to vote in [the election].'”

In November 2023, the U.S. Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, concluding that federal law requires mail ballots be counted even if undated or bearing a date that is “incorrect.”

Republicans swiftly appealed the decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Fortunes reversed

The federal appeals court handed down a 2-1 ruling Wednesday, reversing the district court’s ruling.

Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro noted in the
majority’s opinion Wednesday that contrary to the claim advanced in the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP’s complaint, “The Materiality Provision only applies when the State is determining who may vote. In other words, its role stops at the door of the voting place.”

“The Provision does not apply to rules, like the date requirement, that govern how a qualified voter must cast his ballot for it to be counted,” continued Ambro.

The court underscored that individuals “are not ‘denied’ the ‘right to vote’ if non-compliant ballots are not counted.”

Ambro added, “We reach this conclusion because a contrary approach cannot be reconciled with the text and historic backdrop of the statute, nor cabined to the date requirement while leaving intact other vote-casting rules that serve valid state interests.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley
said in a statement, “This is a crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence in the Keystone State and nationwide.”

“Pennsylvanians deserve to feel confident in the security of their mail ballots, and this 3rd Circuit ruling roundly rejects unlawful left-wing attempts to count undated or incorrectly dated mail ballots,” added Whatley. “Republicans will continue to fight and win for election integrity in courts across the country ahead of the 2024 election.”

The RNC further emphasized the importance of reinforcing mail ballot safeguards in Pennsylvania as it is a “crucial swing state.”

Mike Lee, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, bemoaned the result,
claiming thousands of Pennsylvanian voters might “lose their vote” over their apparent inability to properly cast a ballot.

Ari Savizky, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who unsuccessfully argued the case before the court, said, “We are considering all of our options at this time. And we will not stop fighting for voters.”

Philip Hensley-Robin, the director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a plaintiff in the case, claimed that this ruling will “undoubtedly have a negative impact on elderly voters and voters of color” but did not specify why minorities are supposedly more likely to submit faulty ballots.

“We will work with partners to ensure that voters across the state of Pennsylvania know how to make sure their votes are counted,” added Hensley-Robin.

Spotlight PA noted earlier this month that the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, whereon certain justices have indicated an interest in taking up the issue.

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