Lawsuit targets Lanco election board over rejected mail-in ballots

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans (PARA) filed a lawsuit against the Lancaster County Board of Elections challenging the rejection of mail-in and mail-in ballots missing the last two digits of the year from of the handwritten date on the outer return envelope.

The group is represented by Fair Elections Center and LeVan Stapleton Segal Cochran LLC.

Under Pennsylvania law, for their ballot to count, voters must record the date they sign their declaration. In late 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) redesigned the outer envelope of absentee and absentee ballots so that the first two digits of the year (“20”) are pre-printed in the field handwritten date.

Many Republicans, including Republican Lancaster County commissioners Josh Parsons And Ray D’Agostinoargued that the language of the law clearly requires a signature and date on voter declarations for a vote to be counted.

“You might think it’s stupid, but it’s in the law,” Parsons said at a 2022 elections board meeting.

Parsons and D’Agostino, as well as Democratic commissioner Alice Yoderdid not respond to a request for comment.

During the April primary elections, some counties, including Lancaster, chose to ignore DOS guidelines urging them to count ballots with envelopes with the day and month, but not the last two digits of year, and adopted a policy of rejecting such ballots. PARA’s lawsuit argues that counties cannot legally reject these ballots under Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania Constitution, given that the current year is displayed on the ballots themselves and that the year in which they are issued and filed is self-evident.

“The right to vote and choose our leaders is our most fundamental freedom and must never be undermined. Counties should not be allowed to reject a ballot simply because the voter neglected to fill in the last two digits of the year on the outside of the ballot envelope,” said Mike Crossey, President of PARA. “The Pennsylvania Alliance is committed to fighting to ensure that no county is allowed to disenfranchise voters because of this minor technicality.”

“Rejecting mail-in ballots for the simple omission of the ’24’ digits of the year makes Pennsylvania law absurd. The ballots rejected by Lancaster and other counties are neither from the past nor the future; “unquestionably, they were issued, sunk and returned in 2024,” said Jon Sherman, director of litigation at the Fair Elections Center. “Pennsylvania’s election laws should be interpreted in favor of voters and not as a series of tricks and traps.”

Jon Cochran by LeVan Stapleton Segal Cochran added: “Every vote counts, and ballots should not be thrown out for meaningless technical reasons like this. »

NL | LancasterOnline analyzed 338 ballots from the 2022 midterm general elections and found that older people were more likely to have their ballots rejected for clerical errors. The analysis found that 60 percent of voters who did not correctly sign and date their mail-in ballots were 65 or older. The same group of voters represented only 27% of all registered voters in the county.

The full complaint filed in Lancaster County Common Pleas Court can be read here.