By Zachary Stieber
Republicans have sued Pennsylvania officials after the state’s top elections official said mail-in ballots without dates will be accepted, in contravention to state law.
A group of Pennsylvania voters, the Republican National Committee, and the Pennsylvania Republican Party filed the lawsuit (pdf) with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, asking justices to quickly declare illegal guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of State regarding ballots that do not have dates.
Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said Oct. 11 that “every county is expected to include undated ballots in their official returns for the Nov. 8 election, consistent with the Department of State’s guidance.” The guidance (pdf), last updated in September, says that “any ballot-return envelope that is undated or dated with an incorrect date but that has been timely received by the county shall be included” in the vote count.
State law says that any voter who uses an absentee or mail-in ballot must “fill out, date and sign the declaration” that is printed on the envelope used to submit such a ballot, Republicans noted in their suit.
“Petitioners ask the Court to issue a declaration that the date requirement is valid and mandatory, and that the Acting Secretary’s contrary guidance is invalid. Moreover, to preserve the rights of all voters and candidates, the Court should immediately issue an order directing county boards of elections to segregate any undated or incorrectly dated ballots received for the 2022 general election,” they said.
Some counties have said they intend to segregate undated ballots but many have not, the Republicans said, underlining the need to act quickly with the midterm election taking place in November.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also joined in the lawsuit.
“As the Pennsylvania legislature and U.S. Supreme Court have made clear, undated mail-in ballots should not be counted,” Tom Emmer, chairman of that committee; Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee; and Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the state GOP, said in a joint statement.
“Republicans are holding Pennsylvania Democrats accountable for their brazen defiance of the Supreme Court and the rules duly set by the legislature. Pennsylvania Democrats have a history of election integrity failures and Pennsylvanians deserve better: this lawsuit is the latest step in Republican efforts to promote free, fair, and transparent elections in the Keystone State,” they added.
The Pennsylvania Department of State did not respond to a request for comment.
Chapman issued her latest statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the matter, vacating an appeals court decision that required officials in Pennsylvania to count mail-in ballots even if there were no dates on the envelopes.
Chapman claimed that the order did not affect a previous decision by Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which ruled that both state and federal law bar officials from not counting ballots without dates on the envelopes.
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