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GOP Wins ‘Crucial’ Mail-In Ballot Case In Critical Swing State

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision earlier this month that could significantly influence election outcomes in Pennsylvania, a key swing state, as well as other battleground states, marking a notable win for Republicans who have been advocating for voter integrity measures.

The court overturned a federal district court’s order and ruled in favor of the Republican National Committee (RNC) regarding signature verification for mail-in voting in the “crucial” state of Pennsylvania.

Per NPR, the case was about whether mail-in ballots with an incorrect or no date at all under the voter’s signature should be counted.

Democrats argued that the Materiality Provision, as outlined in Section (a)(2)(B) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, should apply, thereby asserting that the ballots should be counted.

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The Materiality Provision prohibits denial of the right to vote because of an “error or omission” on paperwork “related to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting,” if the mistake is “not material in determining whether [an] individual is qualified” to vote.

The RNC responded by contending that enforcing the date requirement on ballots “does not impinge on the right to vote” because the Materiality Provision “only prohibits immaterial requirements affecting the qualification and registration of a voter,” not other, more specific requirements for casting a ballot, The Daily Wire reported.

All three of the appeals court judges were appointed by Democrats; two of the three agreed with Republicans, writing, in part:

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States have separate bodies of rules for separate stages of the voting process. One stage, voter qualification, deals with who votes. To register and thus be authorized to vote, applicants must follow prescribed steps and meet certain requirements. It’s like obtaining a license to drive. Another stage deals with how ballots are cast by those previously authorized to vote, which is governed by a different set of rules. To cast a ballot that is valid and will be counted, all qualified voters must abide by certain requirements, just like those authorized to drive must obey the State’s traffic laws like everyone else.

The Materiality Provision is an important federal overlay on state election requirements during the “who” stage: voter qualification. It prohibits States from denying an applicant the right to vote based on an error or omission in paperwork involving his application if that mistake is immaterial in determining whether he is qualified to vote. That is, it is triggered when conduct or laws restrict who may vote. But it leaves it to the States to decide how qualified voters must cast a valid ballot. Pennsylvania has made one such rule—the date requirement—mandatory. The federal Materiality Provision, in our view, does not interfere.

RNC Chairman Michael Whatley responded to the ruling: “This is a crucial victory for election integrity and voter confidence in the Keystone State and nationwide. Pennsylvanians deserve to feel confident in the security of their mail ballots, and this 3rd Circuit ruling roundly rejects unlawful left-wing attempts to count undated or incorrectly dated mail ballots. Republicans will continue to fight and win for election integrity in courts across the country ahead of the 2024 election.”

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The RNC noted further in its statement praising the decision: “In November 2022, the RNC, NRCC, and PAGOP secured a victory on this issue in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A federal district court then struck down the dated signature requirement in November 2023. We appealed, and now the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the RNC’s argument.

“This was a 2-1 ruling handed down by 3 Democrat-appointed judges. This ruling will have far-reaching effects regarding left-wing attempts to weaponize the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act across the country and represents a victory for mail ballot safeguards in a crucial swing state,” it added.

The RNC also said that it had launched at least 81 voter integrity lawsuits to clean up the process and ensure improper ballots are not counted, “with more to come.”

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