3rd Circuit Will Not Reconsider Decision on Pennsylvania Undated Mail-in Ballots

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mail-in ballots that are missing or have an incorrect date on their outer return envelope will not be counted in Pennsylvania after the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider their decision on the matter. 

In a 10-4 decision issued today, the 3rd Circuit decided it will not rehear a case challenging Pennsylvania’s date requirement, which prohibits counties from counting mail-in ballots that are missing a date or have an incorrect date on their outer return envelope. 

Last month, a three judge panel for the 3rd Circuit held that the state’s date requirement does not violate the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents disenfranchising a voter for a reason that is not material to their eligibility such as a small error or omission. This was, and remains, a loss for voters in the Keystone State as the strict requirement was in place for last week’s primary election and will remain in place for the November elections. 

The case is not over yet as one of the plaintiffs’ claims was sent back to the district court for further consideration. In addition to their Materiality Provision claims, the plaintiffs claim that the date regulation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it imposes inconsistent rules on different voters that the plaintiffs argue are unsupported by any legitimate government interest.

Rejection of mail-in ballots often impacts lower income and non-white communities — as well as Democratic voters — at a disproportionate rate. Reporting from Votebeat found that in Philadelphia specifically, “voters from heavily nonwhite and lower-income communities in Philadelphia are more likely to have their ballots rejected due to simple mistakes.” Due to this, the plaintiffs who brought the case asked the entire 3rd Circuit to rehear its decision, but the court ultimately declined to do so. 

The rules for voting in the state will be a key focal point ahead of the 2024 presidential election.  In a separate case, Pennsylvania Republicans are currently attacking the state’s new pro-voting policies by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case that advances the radical independent state legislature theory. According to Democracy Docket’s case database, nine lawsuits that seek to hamper the right to vote are currently pending in the state. 

Read the order denying the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing en banc here. 

Learn more about the case here.