The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that authorities must not reject mail-in ballots over discrepancies between the signatures submitted with the ballots and the signatures on file for respective voters. The court ruled unanimously on the matter, and their ruling could have significant impacts in the state, which Donald Trump won by merely a little over 44,000 votes in 2016. Procedural changes that could mean the difference between thousands of ballots getting disqualified or not could help decide the election in the state and in the country as a whole, since FiveThirtyEight estimates that Pennsylvania is the state that is most likely to put the eventual presidential election winner over the top.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (@AP) _ Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday on a key concern over mail-in ballots in the battleground state, prohibiting counties from rejecting ballots because the voter's signature on it may not resemble their signature on their registration.
— Marc Levy (@timelywriter) October 23, 2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling covers challenges from third parties, meaning that outside groups like the state Republican Party or one of its local branches are henceforth prohibited from challenging mail-in ballots over concerns about the signatures. This case is not the first occasion on which Pennsylvania Republicans have challenged voting rights in the state. Recently, they have also challenged the extension of the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots to be counted, which state authorities extended to the third day after Election Day, although ballots still must be sent by Election Day itself. The Pennsylvania GOP’s recent request for the U.S. Supreme Court to block that deadline extension was unsuccessful.
🚨BREAKING: Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that election officials are PROHIBITED from rejecting mail-in ballots based on signature comparison. Nor may a party "challenge based on signature analysis and comparisons."https://t.co/pBa0vyA9h3
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) October 23, 2020
Theoretically, this case over whether mail-in ballots can be accepted despite potential discrepancies between signatures with the ballots and those on file for the voters could be brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will very soon return to having a ninth member, Trump pick Amy Coney Barrett. Trump’s previous two picks ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania GOP’s previous request for the U.S. Supreme Court to undo the mail-in ballot deadline extension in the state. If Barrett follows that pattern, then if this case over the signatures gets brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, there could be a majority of justices in favor of the right-wing position. The court’s previous response to the Pennsylvania GOP’s request to re-shorten the mail-in ballot receiving deadline was evenly split, with four justices in favor and four against.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled—unanimously—that county boards of elections cannot throw out absentee or mail-in ballots due to alleged signature mismatch.
Amy Coney Barrett's first vote may be to block this decision. https://t.co/VPyx2x3Gfv
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) October 23, 2020
Fundamentally, the right-wing’s consistent claims of some kind of looming threat of system-damaging voter fraud are not reflective of reality. Possible discrepancies between signatures submitted with ballots and those on file for voters do not automatically entail attempted fraud, and signature match demands could be used to arbitrarily disqualify voters.