Federal appeals panel reverses district court, upholds Pennsylvania's date and signature verification requirements for mail-in ballots

 March 29, 2024

Election integrity, for obvious reasons, has become a top priority issue for former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, and a surprising victory was just won in that regard.

A 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel just ruled that Pennsylvania's date and signature verification requirements for mail-in absentee ballots are not unconstitutional and do not infringe upon an individual's right to vote, Breitbart reported.

The most incredible part of the 2-1 ruling in favor of Pennsylvania's election integrity measures is that the panel was comprised of three Democrat-appointed federal judges. Those federal judges overturned a federal district court judge who struck down a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that upheld the requirements.

The "materiality" of "errors or omissions" made by voters

In the 83-page ruling, the majority wrote, "Pennsylvania, like all other States, has devised a web of rules that qualified voters must follow to cast a ballot that will be counted. Mail-in and absentee voters, for their part, must sign and date the declaration printed on the return envelope containing their mail ballot."

"The date requirement, it turns out, serves little apparent purpose. It is not used to confirm timely receipt of the ballot or to determine when the voter completed it," they continued. "But the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that dating the envelope is mandatory, and undated or misdated ballots are invalid under its state law and must be set aside."

At issue is what is known as the "Materiality Provision" of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which is codified as 52 U.S.C. § 10101(a(2)(B) and dealt with prior state efforts to deny the right to vote to individuals who made immaterial mistakes while filling out voter registration forms.

The statute states: "No person acting under color of law shall -- deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election."

Cited provision deals with "who" may vote while challenged law deals with "how" voters vote

"Because the date requirement is irrelevant to whether a vote is received timely, the blink response is to believe a voter’s failure to date a return envelope should not cause his ballot to be disqualified," the majority wrote. "But our role restricts to interpreting a statute, and there we hold that 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."

"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," the continued. "Accordingly, we reverse the District Court’s decision and remand for further consideration of the pending equal protection claim."

Breitbart noted that at another point in the ruling, the majority observed, "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. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania unanimously held this ballot-casting rule is mandatory; thus, failure to comply renders a ballot invalid under Pennsylvania law."

Republicans celebrate victory

The Republican National Committee, alongside the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Pennsylvania GOP, joined together to defend the state's mail-in absentee ballot verification requirements against a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Democrat-aligned voters' rights groups that challenged the requirements as unnecessary and unconstitutional.

A press release noted that the three GOP organizations "secured a victory on this issue in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court" in November 2022, only to then see a federal district court strike the requirements down a year later in November 2023, which led to the appeal before the 3rd Circuit.

The release further pointed out that "This ruling will have far-reaching effects regarding left-wing attempts to weaponize the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act across the country and represents a victory for mail ballot safeguards in a crucial swing state."

The new chairman of the RNC, 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. Republicans will continue to fight and win for election integrity in courts across the country ahead of the 2024 election."

Latest News

© 2024 - Patriot News Alerts