On January 31, 2022, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lehigh County to require the county to count 257 mail-in ballots from the 2021 general election that were disqualified only because they were missing the handwritten date on the outer envelope in which the ballot is placed for mailing or submission. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five county residents, all of whom are qualified to vote and whose ballots arrived to the elections bureau in time to be tabulated. All 257 voters impacted by the disqualification of their ballots for not including the date are otherwise eligible to vote and properly followed the procedures for voting by mail.
In the complaint filed today in federal court, the ACLU states that disqualifying the undated ballots runs afoul of both the federal Civil Rights Act and the Constitution. The Civil Rights Act prohibits disqualifying a person’s vote if the reason for disqualification is “not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote(.)”
The lawsuit also states that the county’s failure to notify the voters of the errors violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, the plaintiffs state that the date requirement is “superfluous” and an undue burden that restricts their right to vote, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
On March 16, the federal district court ruled against the voters, and the case is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.