Lawyers Democracy Fund (LDF) regularly supports efforts to defend and uphold important state election laws that safeguard fairness and integrity in elections. LDF is doing just that in a recent lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania that seeks to enjoin Montgomery County from violating state law by using an ad hoc process to allow voters to correct their deficient mail ballots after they have already been returned.
Many states allow voters to cure mail ballot mistakes and provide precise procedures that protect the integrity of the cure process; Pennsylvania is not one of them. Pennsylvania law plainly states that once a voter returns his or her mail ballot, there is no legal method for the voter to fix a mistake to have it count. However, in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, local election officials devised a new ballot curing process for absentee ballots in direct violation of state law.
LDF opposes any election practice that is in direct contradiction to state law which has been thoughtfully considered and passed through the legislative process. When specific election officials ignore the law, it unfairly benefits voters in these typically partisan-controlled jurisdictions and damages the fairness and integrity of the election for all voters.
It is a fundamental principle that state election laws should uniformly affect all voters within the state so that voters are subject to the same standards. When voters in one jurisdiction are allowed to cure their mail ballots while voters in the jurisdiction next door are not, it gives some voters preferential treatment when voters should have equal rights under the law within their state.
Additionally, because there is no established procedure or process in Pennsylvania law for curing mail ballots, allowing counties to create their own methods will inevitably lead to inconsistent enforcement across every county, leading to voter confusion and disenfranchisement. By allowing these specific jurisdictions to ignore the law and give voters in their jurisdiction the chance to cure mail ballot mistakes through an ad hoc process, it unevenly applies the law across the state to the benefit of voters in these heavily partisan jurisdictions.
With no established rules, a ballot cure process could be worse than the disease of defective ballots. How can voters trust the cure process and know that it is fair? Is it evenly applied within cities and counties? How can voters be sure all defective ballots have been identified? How are voters’ identities being verified? When a process is instituted that is not provided for in state law or even in county-level procedural guidance, voters are left asking all these questions.
LDF opposes rogue election officials that act as though they are above the law and supports uniform state laws that safeguard the fairness and integrity of elections.