The US Supreme Court sided with a Pennsylvania Republican judicial candidate David Ritter who lost his race when undated mail-in ballots were counted along with ones that were properly completed.
In so doing, the court vacated a May ruling from the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that sided against Ritter. Ritter lost his 2021 campaign for a spot on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas to his Democrat opponent by just five votes, according to Reuters.
In that race, 257 absentee ballots were counted despite their being without a date written on the outer envelope of the mail-in ballot, as required by Pennsylvania law.
The 3rd Circuit had ruled that not counting such ballots would violate a provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which states that minor ballot errors should not deny a citizen the right to vote. That court found that failing to include the date was "immaterial" to determining a voter’s qualifications to vote.
Republican legislators in Pennsylvania said in a filing to the Supreme Court that the 3rd Circuit’s ruling threatened an orderly midterm election.
In his appeal, Ritter argued that rules regarding mail-in ballots improve election administration and deter fraud.
The court’s action in overturning the ruling means that the 3rd Circuit’s ruling cannot be used as a precedent in the three states covered by the appellate court: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
According to Reuters, the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate the ruling does not change the outcome of the election in which Ritter lost.
In June, the Supreme Court had denied Ritter’s bid to block the counting of undated ballots, with Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.
Alito wrote that the 3rd Circuit ruling "could well affect the outcome" of elections this year.
Ritter told the justices that if the 3rd Circuit ruling wasn’t overruled, it could allow for undated mail-in ballots to be counted in future Pennsylvania elections, and would "threaten to invalidate countless regulations of mail-in voting" nationwide.
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