Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
The Pennsylvania Department of State is suing the Berks, Fayette, and Lancaster County Boards of Elections for refusing to count valid ballots. A federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania ballots without handwritten dates on the envelope are valid as long as they are delivered before polls close at 8pm on election day. Republican David McCormick, a candidate for senator, sued to have undated ballots delivered before 8pm on election day counted, and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court agreed. The Commonwealth Court ordered all counties in Pennsylvania to count those ballots in this year’s May primary election. The Boards of Elections in Berks, Fayette, and Lancaster Counties have refused to follow the law and have tried to certify incomplete election results that do not include those valid ballots.
The Department of State is now asking the Commonwealth Court to force the three counties to follow the ruling that the Court made. In Pennsylvania, the Department of State has very little power over county boards of elections, so they cannot make the counties follow the court order by themselves.
This time the counties were caught when they tried to submit incomplete voting totals because they were originally part of the lawsuit filed by McCormick, but advocates are worried that counties might get away with this in the future. According to Democracy Docket, “When a county fails to submit results, it is easily detected. But, when a county presents incomplete results as complete, the risk of undetected election subversion increases.” Counties deciding not to count valid votes is a dangerous situation that threatens election integrity, and a solution to prevent behavior like this needs to be found quickly.