Judge Allows RNC and Pennsylvania Republicans to Defend Law Disqualifying Undated and Misdated Mail-in Ballots

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Pennsylvania court allowed the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Pennsylvania Republicans to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the state’s law that does not allow misdated or undated mail-in ballots to be counted.

On May 28, 10 pro-voting groups, including the Black Political Empowerment Project — a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for the rights of Black Pittsburgh voters — filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt (R) and both the Philadelphia and Allegheny County Board of Elections. 

In the lawsuit, the groups challenge a state election law that disqualifies mail-in ballots due to incorrect or missing dates on the outer envelope. They allege that this law has led to more than 10,000 mail-in ballots getting disqualified since the 2022 election. 

The plaintiffs also argue that disqualifying these ballots deprives Pennsylvania voters of the right to vote, violating the state constitution.

“The refusal to count timely mail ballots submitted by otherwise eligible voters because of an inconsequential paperwork error violates the fundamental right to vote recognized in the Free and Equal Elections Clause,” the plaintiffs argued in their petition to the court for review.

This clause says that “no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right to suffrage.”

Because of these reasons, the pro-voting groups ask the court to find this law unconstitutional and block state election officials from enforcing it.

The next day, May 29, the plaintiffs asked the court to pause the impacts of the state law, forcing election officials to count mail-in ballots that have outer envelopes without a date or the wrong date written on them, for the 2024 election.

The RNC and state Republicans filed a motion to intervene in the case on Friday, explaining if the plaintiffs succeed in court, “the orderly administration of Pennsylvania’s elections will be upended shortly before a critical general election.”

They argued this lawsuit goes against a 2022 decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a 2024 decision from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the state’s mail-in voting law.

The GOP interveners said in their motion that this lawsuit “is the latest iteration of a longstanding quest to invalidate the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s date requirement for absentee and mail-in ballots, stemming back to 2020.”

There has been a long history of cases challenging this law over the last couple of years. In fact, there are multiple ongoing cases now. In November 2022, Democrats sued Pennsylvania’s 67 county boards of elections. Last week, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans (PARA) sued the Lancaster County Board of Elections.

In their motion to intervene, Republicans also argued that the “non-enforcement of the date requirement has changed the outcome of elections to the detriment of the Republican Intervenors, their voters, and their candidates.”

For these reasons and many others, the GOP intervenors asked the court to dismiss this lawsuit. The state court granted the Republicans’ motion to intervene in the case on June 10.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Pennsylvania Democrats also filed a motion to intervene on Friday, and it was granted on June 10 as well.

The Democrats stated that they have had to allocate “significant time, money, and personnel” to cure ballots in the state that are not dated correctly, which diverts their time from other important efforts. 

Also, they argued that the “disqualification of eligible mail-in ballots under the date requirement threatens the electoral prospects of Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.”

If the court rules against pro-voting organizations, voters who do not date or incorrectly date the outer envelope of their mail-in ballots will have their ballots disqualified and their votes may not be counted in the November election.

Learn more about the case here.

Read the RNC and Pennsylvania Republicans’ motion to intervene here.

This story was updated on June 11, 2024, at 10:40 a.m. EDT to add that the DNC and Pennsylvania Democrats also filed a motion to intervene on Friday, and it was granted on June 10.