Court Battles

Supreme Court permits counting of Pennsylvania mail ballots with missing dates

The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for election officials in Pennsylvania to count mail-in ballots whose envelopes are missing a handwritten date, as required by state law. 

The disputed ballots relate to a contested 2021 judicial election, but the broader legal fight over mailed ballot requirements could have implications for future elections in the state, including the upcoming midterms.

The court’s brief order Thursday did not provide a rationale, but the court’s three most conservative members wrote in dissent. 

The justices’ latest move comes after the Supreme Court last week temporarily blocked a lower court ruling that instructed election officials in the Keystone State to count mail-in ballots that arrived on time but lacked a handwritten date, which is required by state law.

That ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, found that the Pennsylvania law that required mailed ballots without a date to be discarded violated federal election protections.

Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency matters arising from Pennsylvania, issued a brief administrative stay of the 3rd Circuit ruling last week to allow the justices additional time to consider more formal action in the case. 

The Thursday order effectively reinstated the 3rd Circuit decision, over a dissent by Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

“When a mail-in ballot is not counted because it was not filled out correctly, the voter is not denied the right to vote,” Alito wrote. “Rather, that individual’s vote is not counted because he or she did not follow the rules for casting a ballot. Casting a vote, whether by following the directions for using a voting machine or completing a paper ballot, requires compliance with certain rules.”

Tags Pennsylvania Samuel Alito Samuel Alito Supreme Court

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