2024 Election Takes Major Turn After Judge’s Huge Ruling

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

A federal judge’s decision in a Pennsylvania dispute concerning undated mail-in votes is expected to have significant ramifications for future elections.

Surprisingly, then-President Donald Trump named registered Democrat Susan Paradise Baxter as a U.S. District Judge in 2018. Baxter declared that Pennsylvania’s legislation requiring ballots to be dated in order for them to be counted violates federal law.

“The Court has concluded that the Commonwealth’s mandatory application of its date requirement violates the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act,” Baxter wrote in her ruling.

“Since the Court is confident that the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment should be granted on that basis, there is no need to reach their constitutional claim, and the Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim will be dismissed,” she added.

After the Republican candidate conceded in a matter involving ballots for a Pennsylvania county judge’s race, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision in 2022.

Furthermore, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, three justices on the Supreme Court, have stated that they do not believe that ballots that lack handwritten dates violate the Civil Rights Act.

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP and the Democratic Party’s campaign committees for Senate and House candidates are among the plaintiffs in Baxter’s action. Their argument rests on the claim that the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids depriving someone of their right to vote “because of an error or omission” in any “application, registration, or other act requisite to voting if such error or omission is not material in determining” qualification to vote, would be violated if undated ballots were not counted.

It’s important to note that the majority of mail-in voters are Democrats, despite the fact that Republicans have expressed serious doubts about this practice. During the 2020 election, worries about mail-in voting grew more intense and became central to allegations of voter fraud.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of counting mail-in, undated ballots in a contentious local election in Pennsylvania in June 2022. The 6-3 decision has wider ramifications for closely contested races in the midterm elections scheduled for November.

“Over the objection of three justices, the Court restored a federal appeals court ruling that said disqualifying ballots received on time but lacking a handwritten date on the return envelope would violate federal voting rights,” ABC News reported. Even though election officials typically postmark and date ballots once they receive them, Pennsylvania state law mandates that voters include a date next to their signature. The appeals court concluded the absence of the handwritten date was an immaterial error.”

“The Supreme Court did not elaborate on its decision to allow counting to proceed, and it is not binding precedent. But it does suggest that a majority of justices support the view that discarding ballots over small administrative errors or omissions would harm the franchise,” the report added.

Alito wrote that he believes the Third Circuit opinion is “very likely wrong.”

“When a mail-in ballot is not counted because it was not filled out correctly, the voter is not denied ‘the right to vote.’ Rather, that individual’s vote is not counted because he or she did not follow the rules for casting a ballot,” Alito wrote.

Cases involving mail-in ballots have also reached several courts in other states.

Less than a month before the midterm elections in October 2022, a Wisconsin judge denied a Democratic-backed attempt to permit absentee ballots with incomplete witness addresses to be counted. The judge reasoned that this would upset the status quo and create confusion since voting would be taking place in less than two weeks at the time.

The Wisconsin Legislature, which is governed by Republicans, won the case because of the verdict. The lawsuit concerned the amount of a witness’s address that must be on an absentee ballot certificate in order for the ballot to be counted.



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