DOJ Moves To Protect Mail-In Voters From GOP Sabotage


The Justice Department has filed what is known as a statement of interest in an ongoing court challenge over policies in Pennsylvania against counting mail-in ballots with either missing or incorrect dates in spaces voters fill out.

The substance of the dispute is similar to other challenges that have been unfolding over regulations for casting a ballot that don’t directly reflect whether the individual attempting to do so holds a basic level of legal eligibility. In Texas, the Justice Department also (with plaintiffs’ agreement) sought permission to join oral arguments in a court case over disputed rules there demanding that at least a large portion of prospective voters filling out registration forms online also submit a physical copy of their materials featuring their signature. It’s not even as though Texas authorities need to collect signatures to verify mail-in ballots en masse, because the state doesn’t offer mail-in voting to all residents! (Pennsylvania now does.)

Whether someone physically signs a piece of paper does not determine whether they are eligible, on a foundational level, to vote — and the same argument applies to whether absentee voters in Pennsylvania included the correct date with their mail-in ballot materials.

“Under Pennsylvania law, casting a mail ballot that will be counted requires the voter to date a voter declaration,” the Justice Department’s court filing says, in a portion highlighted by the voting rights organization Democracy Docket. “Section 101 applies to this declaration and bars election officials from rejecting ballots based on errors or omissions in completing the declaration that are not material to determining the declarant’s qualifications to vote. Errors or omissions regarding a date do not pertain to a voter’s qualifications.” Section 101 refers to a portion of the federally established Civil Rights Act. The Justice Department also pushed back against claims from Republican Party organizations who intervened in the case that private individuals and organizations don’t have the recognized opportunity to bring legal action under key provisions of that law.

GOP party groups that joined arguments in the case include the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and the state party of Pennsylvania, and the case originates with plaintiffs including the Pennsylvania state conference of the NAACP. The RNC is the main organization for the GOP at the national level, and the NRCC deals, as its name suggests, with races for seats in the House. The case is in federal court.

Other recent developments in court disputes over pointlessly restrictive measures around the electoral process aligned with Republicans include a new lawsuit in Ohio over a series of changes, like the implementation of strict voter ID requirements and what originally constituted a shorter time after Election Day in which authorities could receive ballots and still count them. That kind of provision doesn’t let ballots sent after Election Day be included. It’s to accommodate for issues like delays in mail delivery, meaning making the time in which officials can receive ballots shorter could impact prospective voters like members of the military temporarily living a long distance away.