US Democratic senate candidate John Fetterman’s campaign filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s election officials on November 7, demanding that undated or incorrectly dated mail-in ballots be counted in the state’s upcoming elections. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include major party fundraising arms such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, as well as two Pennsylvania Democratic voters who sent in undated ballots.

They claim that a state law provision requiring mail-in ballots to include the date on the outside of mail-in ballot envelopes violates federal law. The state’s 67 county election boards were named as defendants. The legal action follows a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to disqualify mail-in and absentee ballots with a missing or incorrect written date on the outside of the ballot envelope. 

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Thousands of mail-in ballots have been declared invalid

The judges based their decision on the Pennsylvania Election Code, which directs voters to “fill out, date and sign the declaration” on the envelope in which they place their ballot. The parties who filed the lawsuit claimed that thousands of mail-in ballots have been declared invalid as a result of missing or incorrect dates since the court’s ruling. According to election officials, “qualified voters who accidentally failed to write the date on their ballot envelope, and more still will be rejected when voters enter an incorrect date, such as their birthdate, instead of the date they completed or signed their ballot.”

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The plaintiffs insisted in their legal filing that the date instruction “has no relevance” in determining voter eligibility. They argue that if a marked date is required to prove voter qualifications, it should be the date of the election rather than the date the voter submitted their ballot.

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked to consider a petition for Discretionary Review to determine whether the date instruction in the state’s election code should be read as mandatory or directory. A majority of the justices ruled that the stipulation was “mandatory,” and that if a ballot did not comply, it should be excluded from tabulation.