Supreme Court allows Pennsylvania to continue counting undated ballots

Pennsylvania's mail-in ballot practices have been under intense scrutiny since the 2020 presidential election

Updated: June 10, 2022 - 4:10pm

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The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a circuit court ruling blocking Pennsylvania from counting a small number of undated ballots submitted for a county judicial race.

In question were 250 ballots which were submitted on time, but which did not have handwritten dates, according to Reuters. The Republican candidate for the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, David Ritter, had sued to block their inclusion in the vote totals, fearing defeat should the ballots be counted.

The court denied Ritter's bid for a stay in the count, though Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Alito cited concerns that leaving what he perceived to be an error in the Third Circuit's initial ruling would have consequences for the midterm elections.

"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.

Alito took issue with the latter point, arguing "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." He further asserted that the date on a ballot was material, citing a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case which the Third Circuit overruled.

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.