On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan ruled against ex-Republican candidate for Pennsylvania state Senate Nicole Ziccarelli, dismissing her challenge to a few hundred ballots that Allegheny County authorities counted in her race. Ranjan — who was appointed by outgoing President Donald Trump — concluded that the ballots that Ziccarelli challenged were actually valid under state law, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The ballots in question were missing dates in areas where voters filled out their information on mail-in ballot return envelopes. As Ziccarelli’s case dragged on, Republicans in the Pennsylvania state legislature actually refused to seat Democrat Jim Brewster, who won the state Senate race against Ziccarelli, leaving the legislative seat empty.
Judge Ranjan wrote, in part, as follows:
‘Contrary to Ms. Ziccarelli’s reading, the Court finds that the Supreme Court expressly held that the undated ballots at issue remain valid ballots that are properly counted under state law. Thus, because Ms. Ziccarelli’s federal constitutional claims all depend on the invalidity of the ballots under state law, those claims necessarily fail on the merits.’
Last week, Pennsylvania state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican, said that Brewster would be seated “immediately” if the court ruled in his favor. After Ranjan’s ruling, Pennsylvania state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, a Democrat, noted that Brewster has “been declared the winner more times and in more ways than should be necessary,” adding that he thinks that the issue is “now unequivocally settled.”
Originally, the Allegheny County elections board voted in favor of counting the challenged ballots and a lower-level Pennsylvania court upheld their counting prior to the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruling in their favor that Ranjan referenced. At another point in his ruling, Ranjan refuted the Republican argument that, thanks to the actions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, “rules have changed” for the election. In fact, the judge clarified, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “was necessarily deciding whether these ballots were valid at the time they were cast–that is, before the election and before votes were counted.” In other words, the court wasn’t changing rules — they were interpreting the rules as they already stood.
🚨NEW: A Pennsylvania federal judge appointed by Trump issued a decision today in a case involving the state legislature that squarely rejects the GOP lie that the PA Supreme Court "changed the rules" in the election. pic.twitter.com/jvq5Ibz4At
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) January 12, 2021