A significant legal ruling in Pennsylvania is poised to influence future elections, as a federal judge, Susan Paradise Baxter, issued a decision in a case involving undated mail-in ballots as reported by the Conservative Brief on Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Baxter, a registered Democrat, surprisingly appointed by then-President Donald Trump in 2018, ruled that Pennsylvania’s law requiring ballots to be dated or deemed ineligible violates U.S. law, according to Politics PA.
The judge’s ruling stated, “The Court has concluded that the Commonwealth’s mandatory application of its date requirement violates the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act.”
Baxter emphasized that since the court is confident in granting the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment based on this, there is no need to address their constitutional claim, and the equal protection claim will be dismissed.
This development follows a similar case in 2022 where the U.S. Supreme Court nullified a lower court’s ruling on a Pennsylvania county judge’s race related to undated ballots.
Notably, three Supreme Court justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch expressed skepticism about disqualifying ballots for missing handwritten dates, questioning whether it violates the Civil Rights Act.
The plaintiffs in Baxter’s case include the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP and the Democratic Party’s campaign committees for U.S. House and Senate candidates.
Their argument centers on the assertion that not counting undated ballots would contravene the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits denying the right to vote due to an error or omission that is not material in determining voter qualification.
It is essential to recognize that mail-in voting is predominantly utilized by Democratic voters, a practice that has faced considerable skepticism from Republicans.
The concerns surrounding mail-in voting reached a peak during the 2020 election, becoming a focal point in claims of voter fraud.
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court made a pivotal decision favoring the counting of undated mail-in ballots in a contested Pennsylvania local election.
The 6-3 ruling had broader implications for close races in the November midterm elections.
Despite being non-binding precedent, the decision suggested a majority of justices supported the view that discarding ballots over minor administrative errors or omissions would harm the franchise.
Justice Alito contested the decision, stating that when a mail-in ballot is not counted due to incorrect completion, it does not constitute the denial of the right to vote.
Instead, it indicates that the voter did not adhere to the rules for casting a ballot.
Mail-in ballot cases have emerged in various courts in other states as well.
In October 2022, less than a month before the midterms, a Wisconsin judge rejected a Democratic-backed attempt to allow absentee ballots with an incomplete witness address to be counted.
The judge argued that such a decision would disrupt the existing status quo and cause confusion with voting already underway.
This legal landscape surrounding mail-in ballots underscores the ongoing debate over voting procedures and regulations.
As courts grapple with the intricacies of election laws, these decisions carry significant implications for the democratic process and the exercise of citizens’ voting rights.
The intersection of legal challenges, political dynamics, and the evolving nature of elections continues to shape the electoral landscape in the United States.