September 26, 2022

Supreme Court orders Pennsylvania to set late ballots aside

There have been many problems with vote legitimacy and counting in the 2020 election. At least in the important swing state of Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump has achieved an important legal win.

While a previous court decision allowed Pennsylvania to accept ballots received after Election Day, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered county election boards to segregate late arrivals. This means they won’t be included in the on-time ballot counts, the Friday decision stated.

“All county boards of election are hereby ordered, pending further order of the Court, to comply with the following guidance provided by the Secretary of the Commonwealth on October 28 and November 1, namely, (1) that all ballots received by mail after 8:00 p.m. on November 3 be segregated and kept ‘in a secure, safe, and sealed container separate from other voted ballots,’ and (2) that all such ballots, if counted, shall be counted separately,” Alito said in his decision.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party initiated legal action to block previous efforts to count ballots that were not postmarked by Nov. 3. The state was just one of many to enact changes to how voters are allowed to cast their ballots, with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf having approved “no excuse” absentee balloting.

The ease of requesting and sending mail-in ballots has opened in Pandora’s box. In Pennsylvania and other states, problems of verifying addresses and the inability to match the identity of the person requesting and casting the vote have caused suspicion.

However, compounding the problem in Pennsylvania was the ability to also count votes that came in after Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the coronavirus pandemic to be a  “natural disaster,” allowing it to extend the deadline for accepting ballots to Nov. 6.

Although the heads of the election boards were already keeping late ballots separated, the U.S. Supreme court decision guaranteed all would have to comply by not comingling the ballots. This issue has essentially been over the question of whether the legislature, which mandated that ballots be received by 8p.m. on election day Pennsylvania’s Act 77, could be overruled by the state court’s decision to allow late ballots in the counts.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent, will likely walk away with the presidency in the end anyway. However, Trump’s voters can take heart knowing that there are still legal avenues left to protect election integrity.

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