WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request to halt a unanimous federal appeals court ruling that required the counting of 257 timely received ballots in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, which had been excluded from the 2021 election due to the lack of a handwritten date on the outer envelope.
A Lehigh County judicial candidate in a disputed race unsuccessfully sought the stay from the Supreme Court.
In its ruling late last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that, “Ignoring ballots because the outer envelope was undated, even though the ballot was indisputably received before the deadline for voting[,] serves no purpose other than disenfranchising otherwise qualified voters.” The Supreme Court’s decision today clears the path for the appeals court’s ruling to be enforced and for all 257 ballots to be counted.
The case is being litigated by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five county voters.
The following is reaction to today’s Supreme Court action:
Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania: “Voters have historically been disenfranchised by barriers that are not relevant to a person’s eligibility to vote or their choice to participate in elections. That’s why the Civil Rights Act prohibits disenfranchising eligible voters for paperwork errors that are not relevant to their eligibility, like handwriting a date on the return envelope of their mail ballot.
“Our voter clients and all 257 people in Lehigh County impacted by this issue deserve to have their ballots counted, and we are grateful that reason and the law have prevailed. It’s time to count these votes.
“In future elections, this issue could impact thousands of voters in Pennsylvania. We are hopeful that this ruling diminishes the likelihood of disenfranchisement of voters for what is a simple human error.”
Ari Savitzky, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who argued the Third Circuit case: “Every vote matters, and every valid vote should be counted. Voters may not be disenfranchised for a minor paperwork error like this one. The Third Circuit was correct in unanimously reaching that conclusion. We are thrilled for these voters that their ballots can finally now be counted, consistent with the requirements of federal law.”
More information about this case, including a copy of today’s ruling, is available at aclupa.org/LehighBallots.
Migliori v. Lehigh County Board of Elections is part of the ACLU's Joan and Irwin Jacobs Supreme Court Docket.