The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Tuesday that gave a Pennsylvania Republican a significant win after it vacated a lower court decision that allowed the counting of undated mail-in ballots.
According to Reuters, the high court sided with David Ritter, a former Republican candidate for a Pennsylvania judgeship, and vacated an order by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Pennsylvania to count mail-in ballots that were not dated.
“The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit with instructions to dismiss the case as moot,” the high court wrote.
The request to the Supreme Court was brought on by Ritters after he lost his 2021 bid for a judgeship on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas to his Democrat opponent by only five votes. At the point of contention, 257 undated absentee ballots were counted in his race, Reuters further reported.
The now-vacated appeals court ruling originally issued in May followed a lawsuit by elderly voters who were upset that their mail-in ballots were not going to be counted because they failed to write the date on the ballot envelope, which they referred to as a “meaningless technicality,” The Epoch Times reported.
The appellate court favored the voters, arguing that invalidating the ballots would violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, Pennsylvania law demands voters date their mail-in ballot envelopes, per the outlet.
The Supreme Court initially denied Ritter’s petition back in June, allowing the state to continue counting undated ballots, according to the Washington Examiner. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissented from that decision.
In the dissent, Alito wrote:
“When a mail-in ballot is not counted because it was not filled out correctly, the voter is not denied the right to vote. Rather, that individual’s vote is not counted because he or she did not follow the rules for casting a ballot. Casting a vote, whether by following the directions for using a voting machine or completing a paper ballot, requires compliance with certain rules.”
Furthermore, Alito disputed the lower court’s ruling, stating, “A State’s refusal to count the votes of these voters does not constitute a denial of ‘the right to vote.'”
“Even the most permissive voting rules must contain some requirements, and the failure to follow those rules constitutes the forfeiture of the right to vote, not the denial of that right,” he added.
Reuters reported that the Supreme Court’s recent decision prohibits the appeals court ruling from being used as precedent in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware – the three states under the federal appellate court. The ruling, however, does not change Ritter’s initial loss in his bid for the judgeship.