The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has officially issued a ruling that mandates the state to not accept any mail-in ballots which do not have dates marked on them.
As explained this past Tuesday in a per curiam decision, the high court ruled that the boards of elections at the county level in Pennsylvania must separate mail-in ballots which are not properly dated on the outer envelope, or ones that have an incorrect date applied, and not actually include them within the final vote talley for the state. The state’s high court ruling went out in the wake of a decision by the acting secretary of state to pile in all undated ballots for the final counts in the runup ot the 2022 midterms.
“The Pennsylvania county boards of elections are hereby ORDERED to refrain from counting any absentee and mail-in ballots received for the November 8, 2022, general election that is contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes,” explained the court within its two-page order. The ruling went on to directly order the county election boards to pull out and save the suspect ballots. Opinions would become public soon afterward, the order explained.
The high court was fairly split on the issue regarding whether or not the outright rejection of the mail-in ballots went against current federal law. Democratic Chief Justice Debra Todd and Democratic Justices Christine Donohue and David Wecht found that disregarding the ballots would go against federal law. Democratic Justice Kevin Dougherty and Republican Justices Sallie Updyke Mundy and Kevin Brobson found that it would spark no violation whatsoever.
This particular ruling went live in the wake of acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman claiming that the state would make sure to count all undated ballots and ignore the order from the Supreme Court which overrode a lower court ruling that lets the state count the ballots. Back in May, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that all undated ballots would be legal and subsequently counter. The court claimed that a date on the outside of a ballot envelope had nothing to do with the eligibility of the voter, and the throwing out of those ballots would be a direct violation of the civil rights of voters, explained Fox News. However, the United States Supreme Court tossed out that ruling in October and issued an order to the lower courts to ignore the case as moot.
Despite the order, Chapman expressed that the state would not listen and could still count the cotes, calling back to a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruling, which stated that any undated ballots would be counted regardless. “Every county is expected to include undated ballots in their official returns for the Nov. 8 election, consistent with the Department of State’s guidance,” stated Chapman in his announcement back on the 12th of October, reported by Fox News. “That guidance followed the most recent ruling of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court holding that both Pennsylvania and federal law prohibit excluding legal votes because the voter omitted an irrelevant date on the ballot return envelope.”
“Today’s order from the U.S. Supreme Court vacating the Third Circuit’s decision on mootness grounds was not based on the merits of the issue and does not affect the prior decision of Commonwealth Court in any way,” she went on. “It provides no justification for counties to exclude ballots based on a minor omission, and we expect that counties will continue to comply with their obligation to count all legal votes.”