Pennsylvania election officials are scrambling to warn thousands of voters who did not properly date their mail-in ballots that their votes will not be counted Tuesday following a last-minute court decision that could swing the airtight Senate race in the Keystone State.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Saturday that any mail-in ballots submitted without a date between Sept. 19 and Nov. 8 must not be tabulated, according to court records. Absentee ballots must be dated between Aug. 30 and Nov. 8.
In Philadelphia County, the most populous in the state, about 363 ballots were incorrectly dated and 1,986 were undated as of the ruling.
“All these ballot submissions have the possibility of NOT being counted,” Philadelphia city commissioners said in a statement Saturday that included a list of affected voters. “It is strongly advised that the voters on these lists request a replacement ballot at the county board of elections office.”
Across the state in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, 617 early voters had incorrectly dated their ballots and another 385 had not put any date on their ballots as of Sunday.
“As there is not opportunity to notify impacted voters by letter of this decision and their opportunity to cure, we are instead providing a list of those voters who returned ballots in these two categories: no date and incorrectly dated,” Allegheny County said in a statement Sunday.
Allegheny County residents who did not properly date their ballots may fix them by submitting a provisional ballot or coming to the county’s election office on Monday or Tuesday, but officials there are concerned the late court decision will mean those affected will not know the status of their vote in time.
The Senate race between Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has been tightening in recent weeks, with Oz leading Fetterman in the polls by an average of 0.1 percentage points as of Monday, according to RealClear Politics.
The snafu could cost the Fetterman campaign dearly, as the vast majority of early and mail-in voting in the Keystone State was done by registered Democrats.
As of Monday, more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians had turned in mail-in ballots, nearly 70% of whom were registered as Democrats, according to the United States Elections Project. About 21.1% of those ballots were turned in by registered Republicans, with the remaining 9.2% belonging to unaffiliated voters or those who identify with lesser political parties.
About 50% of those who submitted mail-in ballots were aged 65 or older, drawing concern that those who voted improperly by mail may not be able to physically come into county buildings to cure their ballots.
“Voters unable to travel to the elections office due to a disability may authorize a designated agent to cure their ballot on their behalf by using a designated agent cure form, which has been specifically designed for this purpose,” Allegheny County said.
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May, stumbled over his words and struggled to give coherent responses despite being allowed to use closed captioning monitors to follow both the moderator questions and the celebrity doctor’s remarks.