An Allegheny County judge heard arguments Tuesday morning about whether 2,349 mail-in ballots that came in by Election Day should be counted, even though voters forgot to write down the date themselves before returning the ballots.
The challenge came from Republican state Senate candidate Nicole Ziccarelli, after the Allegheny County Board of Elections voted 2-1 to count the ballots last week. Ziccarelli hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Jim Brewster in a race that, as Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph James noted, is “hotly contested.” Ziccarelli trails Brewster by just 30 votes.
The arguments laid out by Ziccarelli’s lawyer, Matthew Haverstick, and Allegheny County were fairly simple. Haverstick said that Pennsylvania's election law states that mail-in ballots must be signed and dated by the voter.
“[The law] is the natural place to begin and end this evaluation,” Haverstick said. “It’s a straightforward proposition.”
But while the ballots in question were not dated by voters, a county machine timestamped each ballot as it was received. And all 2,349 ballots in question were stamped on our before the date of the election, Nov. 3.
Given that, a lawyer for the county argued, requiring the voter to date the ballot's outer envelope amounts to nothing more than a technicality, and would disenfranchise voters who did not commit voter fraud.
“This election code does not tolerate that,” said county attorney Virginia Scott. “The standard that the election code employs is to protect the fundamental right to vote. We’re not looking at anything untoward.”
James said he would issue a decision on Wednesday.