Supreme Court overturns decision on Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a lower appeals court ruling regarding how mail-in ballot rules were applied in a Pennsylvania election, adding an element of uncertainty about voting procedures four weeks before the state’s high-stakes elections for governor and U.S. Senate. .Video above: Pennsylvania judges uphold mail-in ballot expansion in 2019 The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which had ruled that mail-in ballots with no date required on the envelope of return were to be counted in a 2021 Pennsylvania judges’ race. The lower court had said state election law requiring a date next to the voter’s signature on the outside of return envelopes was “immaterial “. That lower court said it found no reason to decline to count spoiled ballots in the Nov. 2, 2021, election for judge of common pleas in Lehigh County. Those votes were enough to propel the Democrat, Zac Cohen, to victory in the race. He has since been sworn in, and the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling is not expected to overturn Cohen’s campaign results. In the latest ruling, the judges ruled 7-2 that the Third Circuit should “dismiss the case as moot.” Joshua Voss, an attorney representing the losing judicial candidate in the Lehigh County race, Republican David Ritter, said the effect of the new High Court ruling is that state law reverts to what ‘she was. “The State Department should definitely update their guidance,” Voss said. “But ultimately elections are administered by counties, and counties will have to assess the state of the law.” A previously scheduled call on election proceedings with reporters on Tuesday morning, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said she had just been briefed on the decision and that “we are reviewing this decision and will provide guidance to counties accordingly.” Chapman works in Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration. Having arrived at the Supreme Court, I can’t comment further. But what I can say is that we will evaluate and update the advice as needed. ‘In no way affects the earlier decision of the Commonwealth Court. This does not justify counties excluding ballot papers because of a minor omission, and we expect counties to continue to comply with their obl igation to count all legal votes. Voss had argued before the Supreme Court that the Third Circuit decision was already cited. in other cases, but should be declared not applicable. as it would require a tight race. So, possible? Yes. Likely? I do not know. Remember, those ballots made the difference in Ritter’s race, which is why the case existed,” Voss said. qualify from a list of acceptable excuses. A lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers challenging the absentee ballot law is pending in state court, while in August the Supreme Court of State upheld the law against a separate challenge More than 2.5 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail during the 2020 presidential election, mostly Democrats, out of a total of 6.9 million votes. Chapman said Tuesday that more than 1.1 million absentee and mail-in ballots have been requested for the fall general election.

The US Supreme Court overturned a lower ruling appeal court decision Tuesday over how rules for mail-in ballots were applied in an election in Pennsylvania, adding an element of uncertainty to voting procedures four weeks before the state’s high-stakes election for the governor and the US Senate.

Video above: Pennsylvania judges confirm mail-in voting expansion in 2019

Pennsylvania’s top election official said the decision is being reviewed and guidance to counties on how to handle those ballots will be updated as needed.

The judges freed a May ruling by the 3rd United States Circuit Court of Appeals that said absentee ballots with no required date on the return envelope should be counted in a 2021 Pennsylvania judges’ race.

The trial court had said the state election law requirement of a date next to the voter’s signature on the outside of return envelopes was “immaterial.” That lower court said it found no reason to decline to count spoiled ballots in the Nov. 2, 2021, election for judge of common pleas in Lehigh County.

Those votes were enough to propel the Democrat, Zac Cohen, to victory in the race. He has since been sworn in, and the new US Supreme Court ruling is unlikely to overturn the results of Cohen’s electoral contest.

In the latest decision, the judges ruled 7-2 that the Third Circuit should “dismiss the case as moot.”

Joshua Voss, an attorney representing the losing judicial candidate in the Lehigh County race, Republican David Ritter, said the effect of the High Court’s new ruling is that state law goes back to where it should. was.

“The State Department should definitely update its guidance,” Voss said. “But ultimately elections are administered by counties and counties will have to assess what the state of the law was.”

During a previously scheduled call on election procedures with reporters on Tuesday morning, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said she had just been briefed on the decision and that “we are reviewing this decision and will provide councils to the counties accordingly”. Chapman works in Governor Tom Wolf’s administration.

“On our website right now, the current guidelines are for counties to count ballots that are missing a date or have the wrong date,” Chapman said. “In terms of the impact on what happened with the Supreme Court, I’m not in a position to comment further. But what I can say is that we will assess and update the guidelines as necessary. . »

Following the decision, Chapman issued a statement stating that “the order issued today by the Supreme Court of the United States reversing the Third Circuit’s decision on grounds of noncompliance was not based on the substance of the matter and in no way affects the earlier decision of the Commonwealth Court. This does not justify counties excluding ballots due to a minor omission, and we expect counties to continue to comply with their obligation to count all legal votes.

Voss had argued before the Supreme Court that the Third Circuit decision was already cited in other cases but should be declared moot.

He said it is possible that further litigation over the undated envelopes could arise if there is a close race in November and a candidate wants to seek judicial review.

“I don’t know ‘probably’ because it would require a close race. So, possible? Yes. Likely? I do not know. Remember, those ballots made the difference in Ritter’s race, which is why the case existed,” Voss said.

Pennsylvania allowed only limited use of mail-in ballots until 2019, when a state law allowed them for voters who did not otherwise qualify from a list of voters. acceptable excuses.

A trial by Republican lawmakers the mail-in voting law challenge is pending in state court, while in August the state Supreme Court obeyed the law against a separate challenge.

More than 2.5 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail in the 2020 presidential election, mostly Democrats, out of a total of 6.9 million votes. Chapman said Tuesday that more than 1.1 million absentee and mail-in ballots have been requested for the fall general election.

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