John Fetterman’s Pa. 2022 Senate campaign sues to count undated and incorrectly dated mail-in ballots

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s campaign for the U.S. Senate has joined the legal fight over whether undated or incorrectly dated mail-in ballots should be counted in Tuesday’s election.

The Democratic campaign sued Pennsylvania election officials on Monday asking a federal judge to order that all mail-in ballots be counted, regardless of the date, if any, that voters wrote to the exterior of the envelope.

State law requires voters to handwrite a date on the outer envelope when they return their mail-in ballots, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last week that undated or incorrectly dated absentee ballots are set aside and not counted. The court issued a follow-up order on Saturday set specific date ranges in which handwritten dates must fall.

There will likely be tens of thousands of undated and incorrectly dated ballots discarded across the state under this ruling. Because mail-in ballots are used so disproportionately by Democrats over Republicans, that will likely mean thousands, if not tens of thousands, of net votes for Fetterman that are rejected.

Fetterman is locked in a close race with famed doctor Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee, a contest that will help determine which party controls the Senate. And in a campaign that polls show is neck and neck, every vote counts.

The Fetterman campaign sued in federal court in Pittsburgh, joined by Democratic campaign arms in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as two Erie County Democratic voters who submitted undated ballots. They argue that the handwritten date requirement is a technicality and is not used to determine whether votes were legally cast.

” LEARN MORE: Your Voter’s Guide to the November 2022 Elections in Pennsylvania

Casting ballots for such a technicality, they claim, violates federal civil rights law.

“The date [requirement] 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,” their lawsuit reads.

Rejecting ballots because of the date requirement also violates the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the Democrats, “a state cannot use electoral practices that unduly encumber the right to vote”.

The issue of whether undated ballots should be counted has been one of the major legal and political fights in recent elections and has been the subject of more than half a dozen lawsuits in places ranging from county courts to the United States Supreme Court.

After the state Supreme Court’s ruling last week that counties voided those ballots, a coalition of voting rights groups filed his own lawsuit in federal court in Pittsburgh Friday. Their argument is essentially the same, using what is known as the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act to argue that counties should not be able to reject undated or incorrectly dated ballots.

This argument has already succeeded.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia agreed in another case earlier this year, rejecting ballots violates the materiality provision, leading a state court to order undated mail-in ballots counted in May primary.

But the federal court’s decision was overturned by the US Supreme Court last month.. That led the Republican National Committee to take legal action over the issue, culminating in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order last week that undated and incorrectly dated ballots must be thrown out.

Federal court in Pittsburgh has yet to set a hearing for the Fetterman lawsuit or the one filed Friday by the voting rights groups.

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