Pennsylvania Justices Add Pittsburgh Ballots to Hearing on Envelopes

A mail-in ballot and secrecy envelope for the Pennsylvania primary are seen in Pittsburgh in May. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether roughly 2,000 mail-in ballots from the Pittsburgh area should be thrown out over missing information on the envelopes.

The case will be looped into the dispute the state high court agreed to hear Wednesday over around 8,300 Philadelphia ballots facing the same challenge. A date has not yet been set for the hearing.

Originally brought by Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate Nicole Ziccarelli against Allegheny County, the challenge opposed the counting of 2,349 mail-in ballots that arrived by Election Day but were missing dates printed by voters on the outer envelopes.

As of Friday morning, Ziccarelli is neck-and-neck with her Democratic opponent and incumbent Jim Brewster, who has been winning more votes than her in the portion of their district in Allegheny County.

While an Allegheny County judge said the ballots with missing dates should be counted, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed the holding Thursday, ruling the county elections board could not “relax or ignore” election code requirements.

The Allegheny County Board of Elections appealed the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday and the justices promptly agreed to hear it.

“Ms. Ziccarelli’s lawsuit is an attempt to disenfranchise 2,349 Allegheny County voters by preventing the counting of lawfully cast mail-in ballots and absentee ballots simply because they do not contain a date penned by the elector on the outer envelope,” the county board’s petition states. “There is no suggestion or evidence to show that these ballots are fraudulent. All challenged ballots contain a unique barcode located on the outer envelope that links that ballot to the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors which, in turn, contains information specific to that voter, including the date the ballot was received.”

Allegheny County Solicitor Andrew Szefi represents the elections board. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ziccarelli is represented by Matthew Haverstick of the Philadelphia-based firm Kleinbard.

“I’m supportive of the court taking the case,” Haverstick said in an email Friday without further comment.

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted Wednesday to take the case involving Philadelphia’s ballots, it leaped over an intermediate appeal that had been scheduled for arguments Thursday. In that matter, the high court will consider whether the Philadelphia Board of Elections can count the roughly 8,300 mail-in ballots that voters submitted with technical issues. All the ballots were signed and mailed before or on Election Day, but with errors on the envelopes, such as omissions of dates, addresses or names.

Even if Ziccarelli or the Trump campaign gets these votes excluded, they will not alter the outcome of the presidential election, in which Democrat Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by a margin of about 80,000 votes. The state’s deadline to certify its election results is Monday.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has a 5-2 Democratic majority, and the court appeared split on party lines Wednesday in the decision to intervene in Philadelphia’s case. Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy, both Republicans, dissented without comment. No justices dissented from Friday’s decision to hear the Pittsburgh case.

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