Pennsylvania Judge Joseph James has rejected a challenge from a Republican state Senate candidate against 2,349 mail-in ballots in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which includes Pittsburgh. The ballots in question arrived back to election authorities without dates included alongside voters’ signatures on the outside of the ballot envelopes. State election law directs voters to include dates alongside their signatures when returning mail-in ballots, but Judge James concluded that this direction does not constitute a mandatory requirement that necessitates throwing out a ballot if a voter did not complete the steps.
The judge said that it “is well settled Pennsylvania law that election laws should be construed liberally in favor of voters” and the “lack of a written date on an otherwise qualified ballot is a minor technical defect that does not render it deficient.” Allegheny County went heavily for President-elect Joe Biden in the recently concluded presidential race, when Biden also won the state of Pennsylvania as a whole. Across elections across the country, Democrats have tended to favor mail-in voting, due in part to the Republican Party’s consistent institutional refusal to take the COVID-19 pandemic with the seriousness that the situation demands. Thus, an affront against mail-in votes could disproportionately impact Democratic voters.
President Donald Trump and his allies have consistently failed to secure major victories in their election-related court challenges around the country. In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign has argued that authorities were out of line in providing the opportunity to fix ballot issues to some voters while other voters went without this same opportunity. In a court hearing in a separate case shortly after Election Day, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Savage suggested that a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that plaintiffs had claimed barred fixing issues with mail-in ballots actually established that the provision of the opportunity to fix ballot issues simply wasn’t mandatory.
Notably, in a Tuesday hearing in a court challenge that the Trump team brought, Rudy Giuliani — who joined the Trump campaign’s legal team — said that the challenge “is not a fraud case.” Without alleging specific instances of specific fraud in the state as part of the case, the judge concluded that a previously scheduled evidentiary hearing was not actually needed.