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Today is Monday, November 7. We are tracking 2,208 bills so far this session, with 583 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 1,058 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision requiring counties to reject otherwise-valid mail ballots solely based on a missing date.
The Good News: New York’s intermediate appellate court prevented vote counting chaos by upholding two 2021 laws relating to mail ballots. An Arizona judge issued a restraining order protecting voters from armed citizens harassing them at drop boxes.
Looking Ahead: A new lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to reject ballots based on missing dates which are unrelated to ballot timeliness or voter eligibility. The suit claims the decision violates the national Voting Rights Act, which prohibits states from rejecting ballots for “immaterial” reasons.
Here are the details:
Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision disenfranchises voters who forget to date their ballots. Pennsylvania counties have disagreed on whether to count signed mail ballots returned on time by eligible voters when the voter forgets to date their signature, or mistakenly puts a different date, such as their birthdate, instead. Though the date has no bearing on whether the ballot is timely, nor whether the voter is eligible to vote, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided last Tuesday that these ballots cannot be counted. Since the decision, Berks County has notified over 700 voters that their ballots have been canceled for signature date reasons, and Allegheny County has released a list of over 1,000 voters who must act to avoid disenfranchisement. On Friday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision as a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits states from rejecting ballots for “immaterial” reasons.
New York Courts protect election integrity. New York’s intermediate appellate court prevented vote counting chaos by upholding two 2021 laws relating to absentee ballots against two last minute lawsuits by New York’s Republican and Conservative parties. One lawsuit, filed in late September after absentee ballots had already been mailed to voters, resulted in a trial court ordering officials to stop the ongoing canvassing of ballots in late October. The other lawsuit resulted in a mid-September court order upholding the legitimacy of mail ballots relying on a special Covid-related illness excuse, which the Schoharie County Republican Committee then appealed in early October. The intermediate appellate court rejected these suits, stating their filing came too late and that ruling in plaintiffs’ favor would have been profoundly disruptive to the ongoing election.
Arizona court protects voters against intimidation, while Cochise County presses forward with plans to do a full hand count. On Tuesday, a judge issued a restraining order blocking armed civilians from intimidating, harassing, and photographing voters returning ballots to drop boxes. Cochise County, facing the threat of litigation, had decided to pursue a limited and clearly-legal hand count of ballots of the November Election. After Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an interpretation of the law, however, the County decided to press forward with a full hand count. The county was promptly sued.
This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker: tracker.votingrightslab.org