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U.S. Supreme Court Green Lights Counting Undated Mail-In Ballots in Pennsylvania


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The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday said counting undated mail-in ballots in a contested Pennsylvania local election was okay in their book.

Now, that move could set a consequential precedent heading into the midterm elections.

While three justices objected, the “Court restored a federal appeals court ruling that said disqualifying ballots received on time but lacking a handwritten date on the return envelope would violate federal voting rights.”

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch formed the dissenting opinion.

Alito said he would have stayed the appeals court ruling in order to review the merits of the dispute, which he said “could well affect the outcome of the fall elections.”

Alito wrote that he believes the Third Circuit opinion is “very likely wrong.”

“The Third Circuit’s interpretation broke new ground, and at this juncture, it appears to me that that interpretation is very likely wrong,” he argued.

“If left undisturbed, it could well affect the outcome of the fall elections, and it would be far better for us to address that interpretation before, rather than after, it has that effect.”

The lower court’s ruling held that the ballot’s date, or lack thereof, was “immaterial” to its validity and that blocking such ballots would deny their issuers the right to vote.

“When a mail-in ballot is not counted because it was not filled out correctly, the voter is not denied ‘the right to vote.’ Rather, that individual’s vote is not counted because he or she did not follow the rules for casting a ballot,” Alito wrote.

ABC News reported:

Pennsylvania has famously had a number of very close elections in recent years, in several cases decided by the counting of mail-in ballots with varying degrees of compliance with state voting regulations.

GOP Senate candidate David McCormick, who conceded to rival Dr. Mehmet Oz in his closely-watched Pennsylvania primary race last week, may have benefitted from the counting of undated mail-in ballots, which were ultimately discarded. He lost by 900 votes.

The court’s decision most immediately benefits the Democratic candidate in a 2021 race for a seat on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, Zachary Cohen. He trails David Ritter, a Republican, by 71 votes. State election officials say there are 257 undated mail-in ballots that will soon be counted to finalize results in the race.

Just the News added:

Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot practices have been under intense scrutiny since the 2020 presidential election. A pivotal swing state, supporters of former President Donald Trump took aim at Harrisburg’s COVID absentee ballot measures, arguing the state’s election was riddled with fraudulent ballots.

The Commonwealth will host a number of pivotal elections this Fall, most noticeably a Senate race between Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.



 

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