Republicans Sue to Discard Undated Pennsylvania Absentee Ballots

Pennsylvania’s Republican Party and its national counterpart filed a lawsuit this week to prevent the state’s Democrat-run executive branch from requiring counties to count undated absentee ballots. 

A lawsuit that originated in 2021 to settle a dispute about whether such ballots should be tallied resulted in the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals answering in the affirmative this June. That ruling decided a race for Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas in favor of Democrat Zachary Cohen over Republican David Ritter. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court considered Republicans’ appeal to that decision. While the justices did not overturn the judicial election’s result, they did determine that the lower court’s ruling should not set a precedent whereby state officials would have to count absentee ballots sent in envelopes on which the voter did not write a date.

Pennsylvania Democrats balked at the Supreme Court’s action, with acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman insisting that county boards of elections include undated ballots in their final tallies, despite state law stipulating that such votes are invalid. The state GOP characterized the commonwealth’s guidance as lawless.

“As the Pennsylvania legislature and U.S. Supreme Court have made clear, undated mail-in ballots should not be counted,” Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas said in a statement. “Republicans are holding Pennsylvania Democrats accountable for their brazen defiance of the Supreme Court and the rules duly set by the legislature. Pennsylvania Democrats have a history of election-integrity failures and Pennsylvanians deserve better. This lawsuit is the latest step in Republican efforts to promote free, fair and transparent elections in the Keystone State.” 

Leftists blasted the GOP for what they claim is an attempt at disenfranchisement. 

“Republicans filed this lawsuit despite the fact that mail-in ballots have already been sent out to voters and this issue has been litigated before,” the progressive organization Democracy Docket stated in response to the litigation. “This latest challenge makes it abundantly clear that Republicans will stop at nothing to disrupt the mail-in voting process and disenfranchise voters across Pennsylvania and the country.”

The question of whether to count absentee ballots has come up in several elections over the last few years, including the 2022 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the Lehigh County judicial race, and the 2020 contest between incumbent State Senator Jim Brewster (D-Monroeville) and Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli. 

State judges ultimately settled Brewster’s race in his favor, deciding to count ballots that came in flawed envelopes. This week, Brewster proposed legislation to remove the dating requirement from the Elections Code entirely. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Counting Absentee Ballots” by Lance Fisher. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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