Justice Alito blocks push to count undated ballots in Pennsylvania 

by mcardinal

Savannah Hulsey Pointer, FISM News 


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a stay to keep undated ballots from being counted in Pennsylvania elections earlier this week

The high court justice was responding to a decision by a federal appeals court that would have allowed hundreds of undated mail-in or absentee ballots to be counted as part of a challenge to a 2021 local election in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania according to Breitbart News.

The federal court had weighed in on the issue because of a provision in federal voting-rights law that limits the kind of information that a state can require in a ballot, with the federal judge ruling in favor of the law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision and a panel consisting of two Democrat-appointed and one Republican-appointed judges decided the ballots could be counted. 

The issue was appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court. Alito issued the stay as he is tasked with hearing emergency appeals for the state of Pennsylvania.

Election law attorney and legal editor for the Breitbart News Network, Ken Klukowski, weighed in on the decision saying that the Supreme Court’s decision could have far-reaching implications for how ballots are treated in elections across the nation: 

While a local election in the Keystone State may not typically be a topic of national news, this ruling also has significant implications for other races. There are hotly contested races for governor and U.S. senator in the state. Currently, the top two candidates for the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race, Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, are only a few hundred votes apart. And of course, Pennsylvania is a critical state these days in presidential elections as well.

According to CNN this issue came after the Lehigh County Board of Elections held an election in November of 2021 to fill vacancies for the office of Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County. During the course of the election, the board set aside 57 of 22,000 votes that were not dated next to the voter declaration. 

The board counted the votes initially, but David Ritter, a Republican state judicial candidate in Lehigh County, challenged the decision in state court, reversing the decision on appeal.

Undated ballot objectors aren’t out of the woods yet, however, as the issue will likely be referred to the full Supreme Court who will decide whether Alito’s temporary stay will be kept in place. If the stay is extended by a majority of justices on the bench, a lawsuit can be expected, asking the court to take up the case and hear arguments later this year. 

“It is unclear at this point when the Supreme Court will resolve the matter,” Klukowski said. “This stay is only temporary. The justices could issue what is called a per curiamopinion either on the application for a stay or once a ‘cert petition’ has been filed. But conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for one, has expressed concern about the court deciding serious legal issues quickly as part of the court’s emergency docket, expressing a preference for the court to have the benefit of full legal briefing and oral argument when deciding weighty matters.”

For now, the state of Pennsylvania is ground zero in the debate about how close races will be handled. Election integrity and voting laws having become a flash point in America following the controversy surrounding the 2020 presidential election.