Court Rules For Pennsylvania Mail Ballots Against GOP Wishes

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A federal appeals court has ruled that a selection of ballots from a Pennsylvania judicial race that were submitted without handwritten dates next to voters’ signatures must be counted.

The original federal case was filed after a state court in Pennsylvania ruled against counting the more than 250 disputed ballots. The federal lawsuit claimed “that not counting these ballots violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and [the] First and 14th Amendments because ballots are rejected for an “immaterial technical defect” and this unduly burdens voters,” the voting rights organization Democracy Docket explains. The absence of a handwritten date next to voter signatures didn’t reflect whether the voters themselves were actually eligible to cast a ballot — it was a procedural hurdle on which the validity and security of the vote did not hinge. Initially, a lower-level federal court ruled against the plaintiffs in this case, saying there wasn’t even a legal framework under which the voters could sue under provisions of the Civil Rights Act they cited.

Subsequently, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals — which eventually handed down the ruling in favor of counting these ballots — ordered Lehigh County authorities (where the judicial election in question took place) to hold off on certifying the election results until the court further dealt with these ballots. Besides ruling that the ballots must be counted, the appeals court appears to have also finalized a conclusion opposite to the district court’s previous findings about the ability of private individuals to sue under the cited provisions of the Civil Rights Act. In short, the appeals court found a so-called private right of action is, in fact, present under relevant federal law. Republicans across the country have consistently characterized mail-in voting as somehow especially susceptible to systematic fraud, although the real-world evidence for these claims just isn’t there. In the present, rigorous safeguards are in place that don’t allow for the imaginary fraud Trump claims stole the last presidential election from him to actually happen. Those who claim otherwise are just ignorant, whether inadvertently or willfully so.

Pennsylvania recently held high-profile primaries, but the Republican race for Senate has yet to conclude. Mehmet Oz — aka Dr. Oz, who was Trump’s pick in the race, recently described himself as the “presumptive” Republican nominee for Senate in the state, although his lead of under 1,000 votes has not been certified by state authorities. A recount in the race is getting underway; counties are required to finish their new tabulations by noon on June 7, and they have until noon of the following day to report their numbers to the state. The Pennsylvania Senate seat for which Oz — or current runner-up Republican Dave McCormick — will be running is among the most “flippable” this cycle, observers believe. It’s currently held by outgoing Republican Pat Toomey, and the Cook Political Report characterizes it as one of two currently GOP-held “toss-up” Senate seats that’ll be on the ballot in the midterms.