The Supreme Court restored a federal appeals court ruling that allows the counting of ballots that were received on time but missing a handwritten date on the return envelope, potentially impacting dozens of expected close races in upcoming midterm elections.
The question of ballot legitimacy comes down to a case in Pennsylvania. According to ABC News, a race for a state judgeship came down to 71 votes between the two candidates.
That total did not include mailed-in ballots which were submitted without the handwritten date on the return envelope as required by state law.
Thought the court did not elaborate on its decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the federal Civil Rights Act requires counting ballots even if they include minor errors that aren’t material to determining if their casters are legally qualified to vote.
The court said that the string of numbers making up the date does not play any role in determining the eligibility of the vote as long as it is postmarked and received on time.
Three Justices objected to the ruling, with Justice Alito writing that the ruling broke new ground and was likely incorrect. He wrote on behalf of Justice Thomas and Justice Gorsuch, who shared his view.
“If left undisturbed, it could well affect the outcome of the fall elections,” Alito wrote. “Even the most permissive voting rules must contain some requirements, and the failure to follow those rules constitutes the forfeiture of the right to vote, not the denial of that right.”