The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck another blow to the Trump Campaign’s post-election litigation efforts Monday, holding that ballots where voters “signed the declaration on their ballot’s outer envelope but did not handwrite their name, their address, and/or a date,” should be included in the vote totals.
The lawsuit was brought by multiple Republicans, including President Donald Trump and Nicole Ziccarelli, a Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. They argued that under Pennsylvania election law, failure to date a ballot is a “fatal defect” that requires disqualification of the ballot.
The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh rejected the Republican candidates’ arguments and ruled that election law “should be construed liberally in favor of voters.” The judge concluded that the inclusion of a date is not mandatory. Importantly, despite the lack of the date, there is no dispute that these ballots were received before the polls closed at 8 PM on Election Day in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the plaintiffs failed to introduce any evidence of fraud that would warrant the exclusion of these ballots from the vote total.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, an intermediate appellate court, disagreed in a 2-1 decision. They concluded that the missing ballot signatures were a fatal defect, and must be excluded from the vote total. The court concluded that the word of the use “shall” in the election code meant that signatures were mandatory, and ballots missing those signatures must be excluded.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, disagreed. The court began its analysis by noting the “longstanding and overriding policy in this Commonwealth to protect the elective franchise.” The court noted that the failure to include a handwritten name or address on a ballot is a “minor irregularity” and “entirely immaterial.” The court also included that the inclusion of dates on a ballot was directory, rather than mandatory. The plaintiff argued that the dating of ballots could be used to prevent double voting, but the court noted that the dating requirement does no such thing. Instead, the SURE system scans barcodes to prevent double voting. Therefore, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, and ordered the inclusion of ballots missing a handwritten name, address, or date.
If plaintiffs had prevailed, it would have not changed the result. Plaintiffs sought to exclude several thousand ballots, significantly under the more than 80,000 vote lead that President-elect Joe Biden has over Trump in Pennsylvania.