The Supreme Court erased Tuesday a lower court ruling that had allowed the counting of undated mail-in ballots in a local Pennsylvania election.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit’s precedent would have permitted a provision under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to trump state law, which requires ballots to be dated.
David Ritter, a Republican, ran for a county judgeship position on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Ritter had asked the high court, in a petition submitted to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. this year, to block a lower court’s decision allowing officials to count undated mail-in ballots in his race, in which he holds a slim lead.
The Supreme Court declined to do so, and Mr. Ritter ultimately lost the election after the undated ballots were counted and the results were certified.
Although his dispute was moot, he then requested the high court to vacate the lower court‘s ruling against him, which could have statewide implications.
The 3rd Circuit’s decision had set aside Pennsylvania’s law requiring mail-in ballots to be dated and signed, allowing potentially 257 undated ballots to be counted in Mr. Ritter’s race.
The reasoning was that under a provision of the Civil Rights Act, ballots should be counted so long as they are not missing material information.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson would have declined to take up Mr. Ritter’s case.
At issue has been the date — not the signatures — on mail-in ballots. Undated ballots that arrived on time had been counted during the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mail uncertainties.
The state’s highest court had permitted the undated ballots to be counted in 2020 when mail-in balloting surged due to the pandemic, but the justices signaled the court would not allow the change in future elections.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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