Pennsylvania Lawsuit Threatens to Disrupt 2024 Presidential Election Vote Counting Process

Carlisle, Pennsylvania – As the 2024 presidential election approaches, legal battles over election rules are already brewing in Pennsylvania. These lawsuits have the potential to complicate the vote counting process in November. To avoid confusion and maintain public confidence, it is crucial that these legal challenges are resolved swiftly and clearly. However, based on my experience as a former federal judge, the judicial system is not known for its speed and clarity.

One particular issue at the center of the controversy is the requirement for mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania to be dated. In 2019, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Act 77, which allows voters to cast their ballots by mail without providing a reason. The law mandates that voters must sign and date the outer envelope of the ballot. However, election officials have received conflicting legal rulings on whether to accept undated ballots.

The importance of this dating requirement was highlighted during a closely contested county judge race in Lehigh County. The outcome of the race could have been affected by the presence of unsigned ballots. When election officials followed the language of Act 77 and disregarded undated ballots, a federal lawsuit was filed alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The case made its way through the courts, with a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of counting the undated ballots. However, by the time the U.S. Supreme Court was set to review the case, the candidate who brought the lawsuit conceded the race, rendering the underlying controversy moot. This left the issue of whether to count undated ballots unresolved.

Another case involving undated Pennsylvania ballots has since emerged. This case was brought to a federal court by state groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, seeking to ensure the inclusion of the disputed votes. The judge ruled in line with the previous appeals court finding that the date written on the envelope is not relevant to a voter’s eligibility, and therefore, undated ballots should be counted.

The Republican Party appealed this ruling to the 3rd Circuit, which delivered a contradictory decision, stating that undated ballots should not be counted. It is possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to review this second appeal and potentially grant a stay, as it did in the previous case. Some justices may argue that the presence of a date on the ballot envelope is legally significant.

Unfortunately, the judicial process takes time, and Pennsylvania’s primary election is just around the corner on April 23. Election officials remain in limbo, unsure whether to count undated mail-in ballots. Unless the legislature takes action, voters who forget to date their ballot envelopes may find themselves disenfranchised.

The ongoing legal battles over election rules in Pennsylvania serve as a reminder of the complexities and delays inherent in the judicial system. Ensuring a fair and efficient electoral process is crucial to maintaining public trust in our democracy.