Majority of 16k canceled Pa. mail-in ballots were from Dems

Jan 5, 2023, 6:43 PM | Updated: Jan 6, 2023, 9:25 pm
FILE - Allegheny County workers scan mail-in and absentee ballots at the Allegheny County Election ...

FILE - Allegheny County workers scan mail-in and absentee ballots at the Allegheny County Election Division Elections warehouse in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. New data from Pennsylvania's elections agency shows an early November state court decision that barred mail-in ballots without accurate handwritten dates on their exterior envelopes resulted in otherwise valid votes being thrown out.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — New data from Pennsylvania’s elections agency shows an early November state court decision that barred mail-in ballots without accurate handwritten dates on their exterior envelopes resulted in otherwise valid votes being thrown out.

The Department of State said this week more than 16,000 mail-in ballots were disqualified by county officials because they lacked secrecy envelopes or proper signatures or dates. Democratic voters, who are much more likely to vote by mail, made up more than two-thirds of the total canceled ballots.

The agency said 8,250 Pennsylvania mail-in ballots were rejected because they were sent in without being contained within a secrecy envelope, making it impossible for them to be tabulated without putting voter privacy at risk.

The remaining 7,904 invalidated ballots were tossed out because the exterior envelopes used to send in those ballots did not have the voters’ signatures, or because those exterior envelopes were either undated or improperly dated.

Many counties, but not all, worked with voters to “cure” undated ballots. Those fixed ballots were counted and are not among the number of rejected ballots now being reported by the Department of State.

Some people whose mail-in ballots were thrown out in the high-stakes November election may not be aware that happened.

“In many counties, voters who provide their email address when applying for a mail ballot automatically receive email notifications with status updates on their ballot, including whether their ballot was canceled,” Department of State spokesperson Ellen Lyon said in an email. “There is no similar automatic notification system for voters who do not provide an email address when applying for a mail ballot.”

Pennsylvania Democrats flipped Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat this fall, elected Attorney General Josh Shapiro as governor and won just enough state House races to retake majority control by one vote.

But the Democrats’ much greater use of mail-in voting also meant they saw far more of their votes disqualified than did Republicans, independents and third party voters combined. Democrats had 10,920 votes thrown out, about half for lacking secrecy envelopes. Republicans saw 3,503 ballots forfeited. Independents and third parties amounted to 1,731 votes that did not count in the fall election.

Negotiations between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders about ending the exterior envelope date requirement failed because the sides could not reach agreement on a wider bill to address a host of election procedures and policy changes. The exterior envelope dates are not needed to ensure ballots arrive in time — that occurs when they are received and clocked in by county elections workers.

Republican lawmakers have defended the need for the requirements, saying they are important for security and secrecy.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that the dates were not required — calling them “immaterial” — but the U.S. Supreme Court then ruled that decision moot.

Other federal litigation against the secretary of state and county elections boards over the inaccurate or missing envelope dates remains pending. It claims enforcing the date requirement has a larger impact on voters who are “significantly older than both other Pennsylvanians who voted by mail and all registered Pennsylvania voters.”

In the governor’s race, Shapiro collected just over 1 million mail-in votes, about a third of his total, on his way to a nearly 15-point win over Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, whose received more than 187,000 mail-in ballots. There were fewer than 19,000 third-party or independent mail-in votes in the gubernatorial race.

Marian Schneider, senior voting rights policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said state law needs more clarity about the process of curing flawed ballots so more voters’ choices will count. The total number may be a small portion of total votes cast, but they could determine the winner of a close race.

“It’s still 16,000 people whose votes didn’t count,” Schneider said. “It would be good to avoid that, right?”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled a week before the November election that mail-in votes may not count if they are “contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes.” Ballots without properly dated envelopes have been the topic of litigation since mail-in voting was greatly expanded in Pennsylvania under a 2019 state law.

The justices had split 3-3 on whether making the envelope dates mandatory under state law would violate provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that immaterial errors or omissions should not be used to prevent voting. The tie meant the date mandate has remained in place. The court has yet to issue a written opinion laying out its reasoning and explaining why it ordered county officials to “segregate and preserve” the canceled ballots.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Gr...
Associated Press

International team to present update on MH17 investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international team is presenting an update Wednesday on its investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U...
Associated Press

China says it was smeared in Biden State of the Union speech

BEIJING (AP) — China says it was smeared in U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that repeatedly mentioned competition between the two countries. China does not fear competing with the U.S. but is “opposed to defining the entire China-U.S. relationship in terms of competition,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a […]
1 day ago
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard," a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
1 day ago
South Korean Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min arrives to attend a meeting on integrated de...
Associated Press

South Korean lawmakers impeach minister over crowd crush

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament on Wednesday voted to impeach the country’s interior and safety minister, Lee Sang-min, holding him responsible for government failures in disaster planning and the response that likely contributed to the high death toll in a crowd crush that killed nearly 160 people in October. The impeachment […]
1 day ago
A sign stands on a quiet day in what used to be AmericaÅfs largest overseas naval base at the Subi...
Associated Press

US forces returning to Philippines to counter China threats

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (AP) — Once-secret ammunition bunkers and barracks lay abandoned, empty and overrun by weeds — vestiges of American firepower in what used to be the United States’ largest overseas naval base at Subic Bay in the northern Philippines. But that may change in the near future. The U.S. has been taking steps […]
1 day ago
Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, arrives at the parliament to deliver his policy sp...
Associated Press

Sri Lankan leader appeals for patience amid economic crisis

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president on Wednesday appealed for patience amid the country’s worst economic crisis but promised brighter times ahead. President Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a policy speech after inaugurating a new parliamentary session that he had been forced to make unpopular decisions to salvage the country’s finances, including by implementing […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Majority of 16k canceled Pa. mail-in ballots were from Dems