(WHTM) – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ordered county boards of elections to not count ballots that are undated or have incorrectly dated outer envelopes.
The order also says county board of elections should segregate and preserve any ballots contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes in the November 8 election.
Voters who submit a ‘vote by mail’ ballot must date the outside of their ballot or else their vote may be in jeopardy.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, there have been 918,975 vote by mail ballots returned and 1,419,140 vote by mail ballot applications accepted as of November 1.
It’s not known at this time how many ballots may be impacted by this decision.
On the issue of the federal civil rights law, Democratic Justices Debra Todd, Christine Donohue and David Wecht saw a violation of federal law, while Democrat Kevin Dougherty and Republicans Kevin Brobson and Sallie Mundy did not.
The court is short one justice after the death of Chief Justice Max Baer in October.
Pennsylvania’s next election will be held on November 8, 2022, with control of the Governorship and the balance of power in the U.S. Senate on the ballot.
The Department of State released the following statement in regard to the court order:
We are revewing today’s order but the order underscores the importance of thr state’s consistent guidance that voters should carefully follow all instructions on their mail ballot and double check it before returning it
Any voter who has already sent in their ballot and is concered they might have an error should check with their county elections board or the call tbe Department of State’s year-round voter hotline at 1-877VOTESPADepartment of State
The status of ballots without properly dated envelopes has been repeatedly litigated since the use of mail-in voting was greatly expanded in Pennsylvania under a state law passed in 2019.
In the current case, state and national Republican Party organizations and several GOP voters sought immediate review by the Supreme Court, bypassing lower courts, once it became clear some county officials planned to throw out ballots without the proper dates and others were expected to count them. The individual voters were dismissed from the case by the high court’s order.
Last week, Department of State officials under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf argued in a brief that state law between 1945 and 1968 directed county election boards to set aside mail-in ballots when the envelope date was later than the date of the election.
But a 1968 change in state law, they said, deleted from a section of the Election Code “the requirement that counties set aside ballots based on the date appearing on the ballot-return envelope.”
The dates are not used to verify whether ballots are received in time to count on Election Day; that happens when counties time-stamp them upon arrival. There has also been evidence that at least some Pennsylvania counties have deemed any date to be acceptable, even dates in the future.
Republican litigants urged the justices to rule based on the language of state law, that voters ”‘shall … fill out, date and sign the declaration’ printed on the outer envelope of the ballot.” As an alterative, they asked the justices to have ballots from undated or improperly dated return envelopes segregated.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that the dates aren’t mandatory, but recently the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that decision moot, leading to the current litigation.
In the 2020 presidential election, Philadelphia reported receiving almost 381,000 mail ballots. Out of those, it logged about 8,300 undated ballots.
The Associated Press contributed to this report