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Pa. Dem candidate still winner of election even as SCOTUS invalidates hundreds of mail-in ballots

Hundreds of undated ballots counted in contest decided by 5 votes; GOP's loss will still stand.

Published: October 11, 2022 12:27pm

Updated: October 11, 2022 12:49pm

A Democratic victor in a local Pennsylvania election will hold onto his seat even as the Supreme Court sides with his Republican challenger in invalidating the hundreds of undated mail-in ballots that may have helped decide the razor-thin margin by which the Democrat won the contest. 

The Supreme Court justices in a 7-2 split on Tuesday decided in favor of David Ritter, who had campaigned for the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas last November but lost by five votes. His Democratic challenger, Zachary Cohen, won the seat after Ritter conceded in June. 

Ritter had challenged the counting of over 200 mail-in ballots in the race that had lacked dates next to the voter signatures. Pennsylvania law requires absentee ballots to be dated as well as signed. 

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the dating of the ballots was "immaterial" to the validity of the ballots. The Supreme Court threw out that ruling, siding with Ritter in the effective invalidation of the 257 mail-in ballots. 

Ritter's loss in the election, however, will stand, with Cohen maintaining his victory for the position even as the hundreds of ballots are tossed. 

It is not clear if the remaining valid ballots would, if counted, yield a different outcome of the election, though absentee voting has historically been weighted very heavily in favor of Democrats. 

In a post-2020 analysis last year, FiveThirtyEight noted that, among Pennsylvania absentee voters, 76% voted for Biden, while in-person voters broke 65% for Trump.

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