In a decision that landed days before the 2022 midterms, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered elections officials not to count any mail ballots on which a voter had forgotten to include a date or scribbled an incorrect one, even if those ballots arrived on time. It was a victory for Republicans who had challenged the state’s mail voting procedures, and voting rights advocates found thousands of Pennsylvanians whose ballots were tossed as a result.
The court was one vote short of ruling that rejecting these ballots would violate federal protections, and thus should be counted; it split evenly on that question, 3 to 3. The tie-breaking vote would have come from Max Baer, the court’s Democratic chief justice, but he had died just weeks before. His death weakened a court majority keen to protect voting rights, and his seat has remained vacant ever since.
Pennsylvanians in November will finally fill Baer’s seat, just one year before the 2024 presidential race. The result could substantially affect the future of election law in this key swing state, with new cases likely looming over mail voting, redistricting, and election certification.