Pa. Supreme Court Orders Election Official to Set Aside Flawed Mail-In Ballots
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered state election officials to “refrain” from counting absentee and mail-in ballots ahead of next week’s midterms that were sent back in either undated or incorrectly dated envelopes.
In a tweet after the ruling was announced, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel declared it a “massive” win for her party and “election integrity.”
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agrees with us that incorrectly or undated mail ballots can not be counted in next week’s elections,” she continued. “Republicans went to court. Now Democrats have to follow the law.”
But the court’s ruling was not so cut and dried. A Pennsylvania law, adopted in 2019, requires voters to sign and date the outer envelope when mailing in a ballot.
However, the law has been challenged on the grounds that 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 RNC and other state and local GOP entities brought their lawsuit to ensure the state law remained intact.
A definitive ruling on the case was made more difficult in late September, when Pennsylvania’s chief justice, Max Baer, died unexpectedly at his home, just two months shy of his planned December retirement.
In his absence, the remaining state Supreme Court justices deadlocked 3-3 on whether the date requirement violated federal law, meaning the provision stands.
In its two-page ruling, the court directed county boards of elections to “segregate and preserve” those ballots.
A spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said the decision was under review but showed it was important “that voters should carefully follow all instructions on the ballot and double check before sending.”
Pennsylvania counties have reported receiving more than 850,000 completed mail-in ballots from the approximately 1.4 million that voters have requested this year.
About 70% of requests have come from Democrats and about 20% from Republicans.
Election officials have said the total number of the undated or misdated envelope ballots is likely to be small but could be enough to determine the winner of a close race.