The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday ruled that incorrectly dated mail-in ballots cannot be counted. The ruling comes a week before mid-term elections in Pennsylvania that sees Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee, facing off against John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee, for the U.S. Senate. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A week before the midterm elections, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled the state must not count any absentee and mail-in ballots that are received in undated or incorrectly dated envelopes.
The ruling hands the state's Republican Party a win as it nears the Nov. 8 election in which its candidate, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, is in a close Senate race against his Democratic opponent, lieutenant governor John Fetterman.
"This ruling is a massive victory for Pennsylvania voters and the rule of law," Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement after the ruling was announced. "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 follows a lawsuit the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Pennsylvania Republican Committee filed in mid-October asking the commonwealth's highest court to make clear that the date requirement on the envelope is mandatory.
The lawsuit was filed in response to acting secretary of the commonwealth Leigh Chapman, a Democrat, and her guidance instructions issued in late September that directed election officials to accept ballots in envelopes that are "undated and dated with an incorrect date" as long as they are received by Nov. 8.
The Republicans had argued that this direction violates state law, which mandates voters to fill out, date and sign the declaration printed on the outer envelope of the ballot.
In its two-page ruling on Tuesday, the six-judge panel said it was split on whether failing to count the ballots violated the Civil Rights Act. Three Democratic judges said they would find it in violation of federal law, while two Republican judges were joined by a fourth Democrat as they found no violation with the move.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said it was "disappointed" by the ruling and directed voters to sign and date their return envelopes.
"No one should be disenfranchised for an irrelevant technicality," it tweeted. "We'll keep fighting to make sure every valid vote counts."
Amy Gulli, a spokeswoman for Chapman, told The New York Times in an emailed statement Tuesday night that they were reviewing the ruling.
"The order underscores the importance of the state's consistent guidance that voters should carefully follow all instructions on their mail ballot and double-check before returning it," she said.