Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s campaign went to federal court in an attempt to get Pennsylvania voters absentee ballots counted if they have not been signed with a valid date.
Whether ballots mailed with incorrect or missing dates can be counted is one of the the hottest election disputes in the pivotal state leading up to Election Day, and a recently divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court order counties to refrain from counting ballots mailed with missing or invalid dates on their outer envelopes.
But Fetterman and the voters his campaign has aligned with hope the federal court will override the state court ruling.
“The date instruction imposes unnecessary hurdles that eligible Pennsylvanians must cross to exercise their most basic right, resulting in the arbitrary rejection of otherwise valid votes without any reciprocal benefit to the Commonwealth,” Fetterman’s attorneys wrote. and Democrats in their new lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
“The date on a mail-in ballot envelope therefore has no bearing on a voter’s qualifications and serves no purpose other than to erect barriers to qualified voters exercising their fundamental constitutional right to vote. This unnecessary obstacle violates the Civil Rights Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” they wrote.
Republicans pleaded for tough rules around postal voting this would force ballots with missing information to be discarded.
The Fetterman campaign is joined in its lawsuit by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“As we fight this latest Republican attack on the democratic rights of Americans, Pennsylvanians should check their voting status to make sure their vote is counted. We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect the constitutional right of Pennsylvanians to participate in this election, including defeating the GOP in court,” the groups said in a joint statement.
Fetterman’s race against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz is one of the Senate’s flagship races of the year.
Republicans see retaining incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat as key to their hopes of winning a majority in the Senate, while Democrats see the rollover of seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the two states carried by the current President Joe Biden in 2020, as the best way to hedge against losses elsewhere.
Earlier Monday, a judge in Monroe County in northeastern Pennsylvania ruled that election officials could notify the few hundred voters whose mail-in ballots were submitted with errors, for their give them a chance to correct them.
The judge, Arthur Zulick, noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not go so far as to say whether ballots with missing dates should be thrown out entirely or could be corrected by Election Day.
The area’s Republican Party had filed a lawsuit to prevent voter outreach. The case was one of the last local standoffs in Pennsylvania interpreting how to handle defective mail-in ballots.
County voters who mailed ballots without secret envelopes, external signatures or dates will still be able to vote. Once notified that their vote may be voided, they will have the opportunity to correct their ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Zulick noted that the Republicans who brought the case told a hearing that they had no problem with voters correcting defective ballots if they handed in a ballot in person, ” on the other side of the counter”.
“The only difference here is that the [Monroe County elections office] emailed or called voters to let them know their ballots were defective,” the judge wrote. “I do not find that there was any fraud or political partisanship undertaken by [Monroe County elections] staff or board of directors.