US justices throw out Pennsylvania mail-in voting law decision

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The U.S. Supreme Court is invalidating a lower appeals court decision regarding how rules for mail-in ballots had been applied in a Pennsylvania election.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >> US justices reverse Pennsylvania mail-in voting law decision

The decision Tuesday adds an element of uncertainty about voting procedures four weeks ahead of the state’s high-stakes elections for governor and U.S. Senate.

What does it mean?

The decision has to do with mail-in ballots that are returned with no date written in, underneath a voter’s signature on the outer envelope.

In May, a lower appeals court said ballots without a date should still be counted. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has voided that decision. The justices ruled 7-2 that the Third Circuit must “dismiss the case as moot.” That’s essentially because the law already called for that prior to the lower court’s ruling. So, it was deemed unnecessary.

Impact on the midterm

The state says more than one million absentee and mail-in ballots have already been requested.

As for next month’s midterm election, state election officials say the decision is under review and their guidance to counties about how to handle those ballots will be updated, if necessary. Right now, guidance on the state’s election website is for counties to count ballots that are missing a date or have the wrong date.

Channel 11 also reached out to election officials in all of our local counties.

Allegheny County tells us their law department is reviewing the decision, but for now, any undated or unsigned ballots will be returned to voters with instructions on how to fix them properly.

Butler County tells us today’s decision does not impact their current practice.

We are still waiting on responses from seven other counties.

Community Reaction

Channel 11 also got a reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union. In a statement, they said:

“It remains clear that under both Pennsylvania state law and federal law timely mail-in ballots, where a voter merely forgets to handwrite an inconsequential date on the outer envelope must be counted. Nothing about today’s procedural decision changes that.”

Attorney Sean Logue, who has represented the state Republican Party, also said, “Nothing should change.”

So, as a result of this ruling, it is expected that timely, undated mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania will continue to be counted.

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