Elections Government

Courts Rule In Two Important PA-Related Election Cases

The decisions come in a pivotal election year.

File photo.

Two important election-related legal cases in Pennsylvania had decisions issued by courts this week.

A decision Wednesday by a federal appeals court has heightened the stakes for Pennsylvania’s role in the upcoming presidential election.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that mail-in ballots arriving on time but lacking handwritten dates or containing incorrect dates on their envelopes should not be counted. The ruling overturns a previous lower court decision.

The debate centers on whether the exclusion of these “undated ballots” breaches the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects voters from being disenfranchised due to immaterial errors or omissions in the voting process.

Pennsylvania law mandates a current, handwritten date on mail-in ballot return envelopes. However, there has been debate over whether ballots missing or dated incorrectly since Pennsylvania’s no-excuse absentee voting law went into force in 2020 should be counted.

The expanded 2019 mail-in ballot law, which is called Act 77 and was supported by Democrats and Republicans, made voting by mail a popular option during COVID-19.

The law and widespread use of mail-in ballots has led to some uncertainty and legal battles.

The Republican National Committee is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the second case, a federal court dismissed a lawsuit by conservative Pennsylvania lawmakers aiming to overturn automatic voter registration and other measures designed to increase voter registration.

The lawsuit, which was filed by 24 Republican state lawmakers in January, challenged the legality of a 2021 executive order by President Joe Biden and two Pennsylvania-level orders by Democratic governors Josh Shapiro and Tom Wolf.

The governors’ orders were implementing automatic voter registration and changing how county’s reject voter registration applications.

The lawmakers argued in their case that the actions required legislative approval, which they did not receive.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Wilson ruled that the lawmakers lacked legal standing and called their allegations “vague.”

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