Republicans may have lost a court battle over a Pennsylvania state senate seat in western Pennsylvania, but the argument over how to count certain mail-in ballots at the heart of the case could lead to changes to the state’s election law.
Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster won by 69 votes over Republican candidate Nicole Ziccarelli in a race to represent Allegheny and Westmoreland counties in the upper chamber of the state’s General Assembly.
But Ziccarelli asked a federal judge to change the outcome of the race, which hinged on the fact that Allegheny and Westmoreland county election officials counted ballots differently. In Allegheny County, officials ruled that mail-in ballots without a date filled in on the outer envelope would still count. In Westmoreland County, officials ruled that mail-in ballots missing the date would not count.
Brewster was finally sworn in Wednesday after the federal judge ruled earlier in the week that it was a state matter and that Brewster’s victory, which was certified by the Pennsylvania Department of State, will stand.
Ziccarelli’s lawsuit argued that the different treatment of ballots with the same deficiency amounted to a violation of voters’ equal protection right guaranteed by the Constitution.
The loss doesn’t mean that Republican state lawmakers won’t use the case as one of the main reasons that Pennsylvania’s election code needs to be cleaned up before the next election.