On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that election officials across the state are to stop counting any mail-in ballots that are either undated or incorrectly dated, a massive ruling regarding election integrity with less than one week to go before the midterms.
CNN reports that the court sided with the Republican National Committee (RNC), the Republican Congressional Committee, and the Pennsylvania GOP after they filed a joint lawsuit regarding the counting of such ballots. The court was split evenly on the question of whether or not counting potentially fraudulent ballots would be a violation of federal law, with three justices siding with the Republicans and the other three against them. As the court remains evenly split following the death of Chief Justice Max Baer, the decision defaulted to a victory for the plaintiffs.
“We hereby direct that the Pennsylvania county boards of elections segregate and preserve any ballots contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes,” the court wrote in its ruling.
Republicans had previously claimed that Democratic state officials in Pennsylvania, such as the secretary of state, were circumventing the Republican-led legislature by unilaterally making certain changes to election procedures, a practice that was widely seen in many key swing states ahead of the 2020 presidential election. One such rule dictated that county election boards were allowed to count mail-in ballots that were undated.
The Pennsylvania Department of State, while claiming it would review the order, nevertheless conceded in a statement that the ruling “underscores the importance of the state’s consistent guidance that voters should carefully follow all instructions on their mail ballot and double-check it before returning it.”
“This ruling is a massive victory for Pennsylvania voters and the rule of law,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. “Republicans went to court, and now Democrats and all counties have to follow the law: this is a milestone in Republicans’ ongoing efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Pennsylvania and nationwide.”
The ruling could have a major impact on the midterm elections in Pennsylvania, where all eyes are on the races for U.S. Senate and the Governor’s seat. In the former, incumbent Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) is retiring, with incumbent Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (D-Penn.) and former television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz (R-Penn.) running to succeed him. Incumbent Governor Tom Wolf (D-Penn.) is term-limited out of office, with incumbent Secretary of State Josh Shapiro (D-Penn.) and State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Penn.) vying for his seat. Oz is narrowly favored to win the Senate seat after a disastrous debate performance from Fetterman, who recently suffered a stroke, while Shapiro is the narrow favorite to win the governor’s race.