Supreme Court Approves Counting Undated Mail-in Ballots in Pennsylvania

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of counting undated mail-in ballots in a contested Pennsylvania local election.

The 6-3 ruling could create broader implications for close races in November’s crucial midterm elections.

“Over the objection of three justices, 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,” ABC News reported. “Pennsylvania state law requires that voters include a date next to the signature, even though mail ballots are typically postmarked and dated again by election officials when they are received. The appeals court concluded the absence of the handwritten date was an immaterial error.”

“The Supreme Court did not elaborate on its decision to allow counting to proceed, and it is not binding precedent. But it does suggest that a majority of justices support the view that discarding ballots over small administrative errors or omissions would harm the franchise,” the report added.

In the dissent, conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch wrote they 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.”

“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.

Pennsylvania has had a slew of issues with calling elections and racing not being called for many days after election night.

Last week, Dr. Mehmet Oz secured the Republican nomination for the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania after his opponent Dave McCormick has conceded.

McCormick may have benefitted from the counting of undated mail-in ballots, which were ultimately discarded and he lost the race by roughly 900 votes.

Last month, Alito made a huge decision when the Justice, who oversees the Third Circuit, blocked the decision of the federal appeals court which ordered the counting of undated ballots, that were received on time, in the Pennsylvania election.

“Look, you have a federal Court of Appeals ruling in unmistakable terms that the date requirement is immaterial,” Adam Bonin, a Democratic election lawyer involved in the case, said.

“This is what the Department of State said: It just has to have a date on it,” he said. “And all the ballots, when they’re received by the counties, they get time-stamped, they get clocked in. So we know that they arrived on time. … So whether or not a voter handwrites in the date, it doesn’t matter at all. And I’m glad that this court recognized it.”

Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said that the decision is a “major victory” for voters.

“The numbers of undated ballots are scary,” she said. “And even if the number were five, it’s still five too many. A voter’s done everything. They filled out the application. They got the ballot. We know we got the ballot back in time. … So it just always seemed like an unnecessary step and I’m glad that the federal court agreed.”

Federal law says that no person can be denied the right to vote “because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election.”

In response to the case, a McCormick campaign official said, “We’re glad votes are continuing to be counted.”

Reporting from Conservative Brief.