WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Sept. 29, a Pennsylvania judge denied a request by the Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania to temporarily block the authority of county boards of elections to develop and implement mail-in ballot cure procedures (the process by which a voter may be notified of a technical mistake with their mail-in ballot and attempt to rectify that mistake). In their complaint, the plaintiffs invoke the right-wing independent state legislature theory to claim that “neither Boards nor any other organ or instrumentality of the State government may regulate” cure procedures and ask that county boards are blocked from implementing or developing cure procedures. Today’s decision means that county boards will be able to implement cure procedures for the 2022 midterm elections, thwarting yet another Republican plot against mail-in voting.
Today’s decision comes out of a whirlwind case. On Sept. 1, just 68 days before Election Day and 20 days before Pennsylvania counties released mail-in ballots, the RNC and other national and state Republicans filed a lawsuit against the Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman alleging that Pennsylvania Election Code does not set cure procedures and the Legislature has not enacted “any law allowing for a cure procedure” so county boards aren’t allowed to implement any cure procedures. The plaintiffs argue that, because county boards vary in their adoption of cure procedures, this has “created an unequal playing field.” On Sept. 22, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania heard oral arguments regarding the Republicans’ application for a preliminary injunction. Throughout the hearing, the Democratic intervenors (including the DSCC, DCCC, Pennsylvania Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee) argued that the voting process is already underway in Pennsylvania and, if the court were to grant the Republicans’ requested relief, voters who typically benefit from cure procedures would be “out of luck” during the 2022 midterm elections. This challenge to cure procedures is part of a larger Republican attack on mail-in voting that is increasingly common in the Commonwealth.
In her opinion, the judge emphasized the fact that mail-in voting is already underway in Pennsylvania for the upcoming midterm elections. She wrote that “[e]njoining the various County Boards’ procedures at this point in time would further deprive voters in counties who have been privy to such procedures for the past two years since the enactment of Act 77 the opportunities to have their votes counted, thus resulting in almost certain disenfranchisement of voters.” She also held that the Republican plaintiffs failed to show that mail-in ballot cure procedures are a “clear violation of the [Pennsylvania] Election Code.” Today’s decision is a victory for Pennsylvania voters as they will be able to rectify small technical mistakes with their mail-in ballots this fall.