On Friday, June 7, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, represented by Fair Elections Center and LeVan Stapleton Segal Cochran LLC, filed a lawsuit against the Lancaster County Board of Elections to challenge the rejection of mail-in and absentee ballots that are missing the last two digits of the year from the handwritten date on the outer return envelope.

Under Pennsylvania law, in order for their ballots to count, voters must record the date they sign their declaration. In late 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) redesigned the outer envelope for mail-in and absentee ballots so that the first two digits of the year (“20”) are preprinted in the handwritten date field.

In the April primary elections, certain counties including Lancaster County chose to ignore guidance from DOS urging them to count ballots with envelopes that included the day and month but not the last two digits of the year and adopted a policy to reject such ballots. The lawsuit argues that counties may not lawfully reject these ballots under Pennsylvania statutes and the Pennsylvania Constitution, given that the current year is displayed on the ballots themselves and the year in which they are issued and cast is self-evident.

Jon Cochran of LeVan Stapleton Segal Cochran said, “Every vote matters, and ballots should not be rejected on a meaningless technicality like this one.”

"The right to vote and choose our leaders is our most basic freedom, and it should never be infringed upon. Counties should not be permitted to throw out a ballot just because the voter neglected to fill in the last two digits of the year on the outside of the ballot envelope," added Mike Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Pennsylvania Alliance is determined to fight to make sure that no county is allowed to disenfranchise voters over this minor technicality."

“Rejecting mail ballots for the simple omission of the digits ‘24’ from the year reads Pennsylvania law into absurdity. The ballots that Lancaster and other counties are rejecting are neither from the past nor the future; indisputably, they have been issued, cast, and returned in 2024,” said Jon Sherman, Litigation Director at Fair Elections Center. “Pennsylvania election laws must be interpreted in voters’ favor and not as a series of tricks and traps.”

The full complaint filed in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas can be read here.

The LSSC team on this matter includes Jon Cochran, Kali Schellenberg, and Tara Amenhauser.