The Fetterman campaign claims that Pennsylvania’s practice of discounting incorrectly dated mail-in ballots could disenfranchise thousands of otherwise eligible voters.
John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate running for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, has filed a federal lawsuit asking the court to order that mail-in ballots be counted even if they were not signed with a valid date.
According to CNN, the issue of mail-in ballots with incorrect or missing dates is among the “hottest voting disputes” facing Pennsylvania before Election Day.
While Pennsylvania law could be interpreted to exclude ballots that are not properly dated, Fetterman claims that this practice is unconstitutional and risks disenfranchising otherwise eligible voters.
“The date on a mail ballot envelope thus has no bearing on a voter’s qualifications and serves no other purpose other than to erect barriers to qualified voters exercising their fundamental constitutional right to vote,” the lawsuit states.
“The Date Instruction imposes unnecessary hurdles that eligible Pennsylvanians must clear to exercise their most fundamental right, resulting in otherwise valid votes being arbitrarily rejected without any reciprocal benefit to the Commonwealth,” attorneys for Fetterman and his allies wrote in the lawsuit.
“The date on a mail ballot envelope thus has no bearing on a voter’s qualifications and serves no purpose other than to erect barriers to qualified voters exercising their fundamental constitutional right to vote. This unnecessary impediment violates the Civil Rights Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” the Fetterman campaign wrote.
The Fetterman campaign, notes CNN, has received legal support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“As we fight this latest Republican attack on Americans’ democratic rights, Pennsylvanians should check their ballot status to ensure their vote is counted. We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to participate in this election, including defeating the GOP in court,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement.
The Hill notes that historical trends suggest that Democrats are more likely to vote by mail than their conservative counterparts—meaning that the exclusion of any significant number of mail-in ballots would very likely be to Fetterman’s detriment.
Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the N.A.A.C.P., filed a similar complaint last Friday.
The organizations’ lawsuit also stresses that Pennsylvania’s dating requirements are potentially illegal and could adversely impact thousands of voters.
“Defendants’ failure to count timely-submitted mail-in ballots based solely on a missing or incorrect date on the return envelope will disenfranchise potentially thousands of voters,” the groups said.
Fetterman, a Democrat who has served as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor since 2019, is running against Republican Mehmet Oz, a retired physician and controversial television personality who has attracted widespread criticism for advocating pseudoscientific theories.