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Judge Rejects To Bar Pennsylvania Counties From Contacting Voters About Mistakes On Their Ballots

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


A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that counties contact voters to correct mistakes on their ballots.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler, a Democrat, wrote in her 58-page opinion that counties can continue helping voters correct mistakes on their ballots since the law does not prohibit the practice, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“Such sweeping relief against the 67 County Boards would clearly cause greater injury than refusing the injunction, precisely because it would seriously harm the public interest and orderly administration of the 2022 General Election, which is already well underway,” Judge Ceisler wrote in her ruling.

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“Petitioners have not proven that there is a clear violation of the Election Code or the law interpreting the Election Code,” Ceisler added.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit from the Republican National Committee seeking to bar the practice known as “ballot curing” before the November election.

“Voters in Pittsburgh should have the same election rules as voters in Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania’s Constitution is clear that voting laws should be set by the legislature, not unelected bureaucrats,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

“Allowing some counties to operate differently than others undermines the rule of law. Republicans will continue fighting to ensure that Pennsylvania’s voters are treated equally regardless of where they live,” she added.

Judge Ceisler argued that counties‘ cure procedures “have generally been accepted in order to fulfill the long-standing and overriding policy in this Commonwealth to protect the elective franchise.”

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State law “does not specifically prohibit [elections officials] from implementing notice and cure procedures.” Instead, they “enjoy broad authority … to implement such procedures at their discretion to ensure that the electoral franchise is protected,” she wrote.

“The question of how to handle clearly flawed ballots has dogged counties since Pennsylvania’s massive expansion of mail voting in 2020. Voters inevitably make mistakes, and when they submit ballots with what are considered fatal flaws — the kind that require the ballots be rejected — some counties try to fix it,” Morning Call reported.

“Fatally flawed ballots include, for example, those without the signature of the voter on the outer envelope, which is required under state law, or so-called naked ballots — those returned without the inner secrecy envelope. Depending on the error, some counties — but not all of them — undertake “notice and cure” procedures to try to alert voters of the problem and help them resolve it so their vote can be counted. For example, a county might call, email, or send a postcard to a voter telling them to visit their local elections office to sign an unsigned ballot,” the report added.

“Some counties leave contacting such voters to political parties. Others don’t do anything at all, rejecting the ballot outright,” the report continued.

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In 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined a request by Democrats to require all counties to adopt notice and cure procedures.

“The decision to provide a ‘notice and opportunity to cure’ procedure … is one best suited for the Legislature,” the court wrote.

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At the hearing late last week, Judge Ceisler said the 2020 ruling had largely tied her hands and given her “clear marching orders.”

“I don’t remember in my 65 years on this Earth that we’ve had this much public rancor and entire blocs of the population saying election results are fraudulent,” she said. “We’ve got to weigh the loss of a couple thousand votes [here] with the times that we’re in right now.”

On Thursday, Ceisler acknowledged the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had said in its 2020 decision that notice and cure procedures are best suited for the state Legislature.

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