Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Federal Judge Orders Improperly Dated Ballots to Be Counted in 2024

One element of Pennsylvania election law is, to be blunt, really dumb. It is the part that requires vote-by-mail ballots to be properly dated by the person returning them. Some voters forget to put the date, some voters accidentally put the wrong month or day or year (e.g., 11/15 instead of 11/5, or 10/5 instead of 11/5). And when that happens, the ballot is supposed to be disqualified. This is dumb, of course, because the date written on the ballot does not in any way change whether or not it was received on time.

Various pro-voting groups filed a lawsuit over this element of Pennsylvania election law, and yesterday U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter found in their favor. The basic argument of her ruling is as follows: The date, whether present or not, or accurate or not, has no relevance to determining whether the ballot was received on time or whether the sender is an eligible voter. And so, disqualifying ballots on that basis is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, both of which forbid immaterial errors from being used to disqualify ballots.

The ruling was cheered by Democratic-leaning groups, since Democrats like mail-in voting, and it was jeered by Republicans, since Republicans dislike mail-in voting. Based on that, and the general tendency for Democrats to vote by mail more than Republicans do, one has to guess this will boost the blue team's vote totals a bit in 2024. And in a close state like Pennsylvania, every bit counts. That said, we're not talking about a huge number of votes, since this is a fairly abstruse problem—roughly 15,000 in presidential elections and 7,500 in midterms. And, of course, not all of those are Democratic, so it's maybe +7,000 or so for the blue team next year. Oh, and Republicans are increasingly warming up to voting by mail, so it could be more like +5,000. Still, once again, every bit counts. (Z)

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