Judge Joseph James of the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas ruled Wednesday that mail-in ballots that were received by the November 3 election date but that lacked a written date on the privacy envelope could be counted. The petition against the counting of the ballots was brought by Pennsylvania GOP state Senate candidate Nicole Ziccarelli who claimed that outside envelopes must be dated in order for them to be counted. She did not allege any voter fraud. The Allegheny County Board of Elections (the Board) had already ruled on her petition stating that the votes could be counted.
Ziccarelli’s attorneys cited section 3150.16(a) of the Election Code which states that “The elector shall then fill out, date and sign the declaration printed on such envelope.” in their argument that a signature on the outer envelope is a requirement. Judge James disagreed, pointing out that the use of the word “shall” does not render a statutory phrase mandatory. He reminded the petitioner that it is settled law in Pennsylvania that when there is ambiguity in the Election Code it must be read liberally to protect the rights of voters.
James pointed to Election Code Section 3146.8(g)(3) which vests the Board with the power to decide when a mail-in ballot is sufficient. Since there was no requirement being violated the court must uphold the findings of the board.
James ordered that all 2,349 votes in dispute be counted. On Wednesday evening, Ziccarelli’s team appealed to the PA Supreme Court asking them to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction because of the fast-approaching certification date. The PA Democratic party that is representing the Board also asks that the Supreme Court accept Ziccarelli’s petition so that the lower court’s decision may be confirmed and the election be certified in a timely fashion.