How the outcomes of the 2022 primary election would change if Pennsylvania allows mail-in ballots

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In Harrisburg. Election officials in one Pennsylvania county must count properly cast mail ballots that have been signed by the voter even if the outside envelope does not include a date, according to a federal appeals court’s decision on Friday.

Although the decision was made expressly with a local court election in 2021 in mind, it may have significant ramifications for some of this year’s primary contests, including the closely watched Republican U.S. Senate campaign.

Here is a summary of the judgment and what happens next:

Who initiated the legal action, and why?

A lawsuit was filed in January by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union regarding 257 mail-in ballots cast in Lehigh County for the general election of 2021.

Because voters had not dated their signatures on the outer envelopes, county election authorities did not count the ballots, despite the fact that they had arrived by 8 p.m. on Election Day as required by state law.

Voters in Pennsylvania are required to “fill out, date, and sign the declaration printed” on the outside envelope, according to Act 77, the 2019 law that implemented no-excuse mail voting in Pennsylvania.(Each mail ballot includes an exterior mailing envelope as well as an inner “secrecy” envelope.)

By 902 votes, Oz prevails in the GOP Senate primary in Pennsylvania in 2022. Coming recount

When a Republican state Senate candidate contested Allegheny County’s decision to count more than 2,000 such ballots in 2020, the issue of whether a missing signature or date should result in a voter’s disenfranchisement was first brought up.

According to a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, “technical violations” of state law, such as omitting a date, did not “warrant the wholesale disenfranchisement of thousands of Pennsylvania voters.”

The judgment was ultimately upheld by a 4-3 vote, but one justice objected unless it was limited to the 2020 election, which will be the first general election to use no-excuse mail voting.

Undated mail ballots were not counted by Lehigh County after the election in November 2021, which prompted a Democratic candidate for the Court of Common Pleas to appeal that choice. The state Supreme Court declined to hear the candidate’s appeal after the Commonwealth Court ruled against him, concluding that the votes shouldn’t be counted.

After that, the ACLU took up the cause and brought a lawsuit to federal court, which resulted in the current decision.

What is the judgment?

The “dating provisions” in the state legislation governing mail ballots are “immaterial” under federal voting rights law, according to a three-member panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit who issued the judgment on May 20.

In light of this, the judges concluded that there was no justification for refusing to count the undated ballots that had been held aside for the November 2, 2021, election for Judge of the Common Pleas of Lehigh County. “This matter is hereby remanded to the District Court, and that court is hereby directed to forthwith enter an order that the undated ballots be counted.”

What effect is there right away?

The 2021 election matter in Lehigh County is once again in front of a local judge, who will either compel county election workers to open and count the 257 ballots right away or wait for the entire judgment from the federal justices.

Meanwhile, the Republican contestant has said he will take the matter all the way to the US Supreme Court on appeal.

In the end, the decision can have wide-ranging effects.

Only a few days have passed since the May 17 primary, which included at least two closely contested races that might have been decided by a few votes.

According to Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, thousands of voters sent in undelivered mail ballots during the primary. Chapman said that Republicans submitted 860 undated ballots and Democrats submitted 4,190, based on data from 65 of the state’s 67 counties.

Here is how redistricting changed the course of the Pennsylvania Republican primary in 2022.

Now that a recount is required, the important GOP U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania could take until June 8 to finish. Unofficial results from Tuesday show that former hedge fund manager David McCormick was trailed by heart surgeon turned TV broadcaster Mehmet Oz by a mere 1,000 votes.

One of the most influential Republicans in Harrisburg, Pat Browne, the state Senate’s chair of appropriations and a resident of the Lehigh Valley, was trailing a conservative primary challenger by 17 votes as of Tuesday.

Does the decision impact votes cast in the primary election in May 2022?

Maybe.

All 67 county boards of elections in Pennsylvania received instructions from the Pennsylvania Department of State on Tuesday instructing them to separate and tally the votes separately after verifying voters’ identification.

“A determination on whether the segregated tabulations will be used in certifying elections has not yet been made, given the ongoing litigation,” the advisory states.

In order to ensure that the votes are counted, the McCormick campaign has already launched a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court. The Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Republican National Committee have warned they will take legal action to guarantee the ballots are not tallied, while Oz’s campaign is asking counties to reject the ballots.

According to Lycoming County Election Director Forrest Lehman, some county election officials will play it safe in the midst of this legal storm. The three returning, undated mail ballots have not yet been examined.

The fact that the situation is still swiftly evolving “will cause any county pause,” he said.

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