Lawsuits in Pennsylvania challenge acceptance of ‘cured’ defective mail-in ballots

Many believed the presidential race in Pennsylvania would end up in the courts, and it didn’t take long for the Keystone State to prove those predictions correct.

A lawsuit was filed on Election Day by a group of Republican lawmakers and voters in opposition to an alleged last-minute rule change that allowed some voters to fix or “cure” defective mail-in ballots, a practice that would be in “direct contravention” to existing state law and court decisions, Just the News reported.

Rule changes “hours before the election”

According to Just the News, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, the official named in the lawsuit, is said to have changed the rules “just hours before the election” regarding the procedure for handling ballots received through the mail that contained some sort of disqualifying error.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that state law did not provide the opportunity for voters to “cure perceived defects [on mail-in ballots] in a timely manner,” nor does state law allow for election workers to share any details with voters derived from the pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots, Forbes reported.

Yet, according to the lawsuit, Boockvar is alleged to have announced on Monday that county board of elections officials should “provide information to party and candidate representatives during the pre-canvass that identifies the voters whose ballots have been rejected,” in order for those voters to be contacted so they could correct any mistakes or cast a provisional ballot.

Some counties were said to have rejected that guidance from Boockvar “because it is in contravention of the Election Code,” but other counties reportedly followed what the secretary had said, “allowing only certain voters to cure their defects” in a disparate manner.

“Cured” ballots?

Republicans challenging the late rule change from Boockvar are seeking a preliminary injunction that would block counties from accepting “cured” provisional ballots and “reject, set aside, sequester and declare spoiled” any ballots that fell into that category, Forbes reported.

Forbes also noted that a similar lawsuit regarding the same issue was also filed on Election Day, albeit a more narrow suit dealing only with the process as it applied to Montgomery County, a suburban county to the north of Philadelphia.

Boockvar has defended her actions as being “completely valid” and stated her belief that there’s absolutely nothing in Pennsylvania law that prohibits that practice,” according to Forbes. She also insisted that allowances must be made for “every qualified voter to have the opportunity to have their vote counted,” but also downplayed the matter by noting it was only a small number of ballots that had been cured and was not a “huge issue.”

Judge seems skeptical

According to Politico, a federal judge in Pennsylvania seemed skeptical Wednesday morning regarding the case in Montgomery County, which specifically challenged the opportunity provided to some voters to cure a so-called “naked ballot” — a mail-in ballot not contained within an inner “secrecy envelope.”

The attorney of Republican congressional candidate Kathy Barnette, who filed the Montgomery suit, drew comparisons to the 2000 Bush v. Gore battle and argued that the Constitution’s equal protection clause was being violated by election officials using different procedures in different counties. An attorney for the county, however, argued that the number of ballots in question was too small to matter in the big picture, that there was no specific prohibition in state law against what was occurring, and that granting standing to the equal protection argument would swamp the court with additional lawsuits.

In both cases, attorneys for the challengers are asking the courts to, at the very least, order the provisional “cured” ballots to be set aside and left uncounted for the time being until a final decision can be rendered as to their validity.

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