PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — Election Day is now less than four weeks away, and the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that could affect close races in Pennsylvania. The decision impacts mail-in ballots, more than a million of which have been requested so far.
The law that legalized mail-in ballots clearly says that they must be dated. Pennsylvania says that the date is an irrelevant piece of information and undated mail-ins received on time should still be counted.
The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the law should be followed and undated mail-in ballots should not count. In a close election, that could make a difference.
The governor’s office has a different interpretation of the ruling and released this statement in the late afternoon of Oct. 12:
“To be clear, the US Supreme Court didn’t say ‘Don’t count un-dated mail-in ballots.’ The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of undated ballots and did not change the status quo. The court vacated the lower court’s ruling as ‘moot’ since the race was already over. The Commonwealth Court has ruled that counties must include timely undated mail-in and absentee ballots in certifying their returns and that decision remains good law. Also as a reminder, there are just a handful of session days left and we’re unaware of any meaningful legislation to ‘fix the law,'” said Elizabeth Rementer, press secretary for the Pennsylvania governor’s office.
Dauphin County’s Election Director Jerry Feaser says he’s checking with his solicitor about how to proceed, but in the meantime, “the ballots that have a signature but no date, we will count those but keep those separate so that should a later court order come out saying ‘don’t count them,’ it will be easy for us to just pull those votes out of the totals.”
Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman said in a statement on Tuesday that Pennsylvania counties are still “expected to include undated ballots in their official returns for the Nov. 8 election.”
Some argue that as long as the ballot gets in on time, the date written on the envelope is not important. There is no debate about mail-ins that are not signed or are not mailed inside their secrecy envelope — they will not count, per the law.
Of the mail-in ballots that have been requested so far, according to Department of State data, more than 800,000 of them have been requested by Democrats, adding a political component to the issue: Democrats will likely fight to have all those mail-ins counted, while Republicans may prefer they not count.