HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania and national Republican parties are suing anew in Pennsylvania in an effort to block some mail-in ballots — those lacking the voter’s handwritten date on the outside envelope — from being counted in November, when voters will elect a new governor and U.S. senator.
The GOP’s filing late Sunday went straight to the state Supreme Court, with barely three weeks left before Election Day. The court does not have to take up the lawsuit.
“The time for the Court to act is now,” lawyers for the Republican Party told the justices in the lawsuit.
The effort by Republicans to ensure that improperly dated or undated ballot envelopes are thrown out could help their candidates in tight contests around the state.
As of Friday, nearly 1.2 million voters had applied for a mail-in ballot, with applications from registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by an almost 4-to-1 ratio. Throwing out undated ballots would theoretically ensure that more Democratic ballots are tossed out, helping Republican candidates.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration last week told counties that they are expected to include ballots with undated or improperly dated envelopes in their official returns for the Nov. 8 election.
In an email to county officials, a top state elections official wrote that “both Pennsylvania and federal law prohibit excluding legal votes because the voter omitted an irrelevant date on the ballot return envelope, and that decision remains good law.”
The new lawsuit is the latest turn in a legal fight over a provision in the state’s 2019 expansive mail-in voting law that Republicans say required voters to date a ballot’s outer envelope.
The fight has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court and state Supreme Court, producing conflicting conclusions on narrower issues in each.
Democrats have argued that throwing out a voter’s ballot because it lacks a proper date violates their civil rights and that the provision is useless anyway because mail-in ballots are supposed to be postmarked and then time-stamped by the county receiving them.
Some Democratic-controlled counties have pushed to count ballots with undated envelopes, and Wolf’s administration, following lower court rulings on the matter, successfully sued to force counties to tabulate them in the May primary.