Here’s What the Supreme Court’s Latest Ruling Means for Mail-in Voting in Pennsylvania

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 file photo, Chester County election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 general election in the United States at West Chester University in West Chester. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

By Keya Vakil

October 11, 2022

If you plan to vote by mail in Pennsylvania, make sure to date your ballot. While your ballot might still be counted even if you don’t date it, it’s best not to leave it to chance or to the whims of the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday injected confusion into whether undated ballots would be counted in November’s elections.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday threw a wrench into Pennsylvania’s elections, vacating a lower court’s ruling that had allowed undated mail ballots to be counted in the commonwealth.

The high court’s decision, which comes just four weeks from Election Day, will likely lead to new lawsuits over the issue of undated mail-in ballots and could create a wave of confusion among voters. 

Pennsylvania’s top election official, Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, said Tuesday the Court’s decision was under review and that guidance to counties about how to handle such ballots would be updated if necessary.

Here’s where things stand right now:

Why is this happening?

Under Pennsylvania law, voters are required to write a date on the outer mailing envelope when they return mail-in ballots. In recent years, state courts declared that undated ballots must be rejected, but in May, a federal appeals court ruled that rejecting undated mail ballots was a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

That decision came in a case surrounding just 257 undated mail ballots from Lehigh County in last year’s election. Republicans demanded that all undated mail-in ballots be thrown out, while Democrats fought to have them counted. 

The appeals court’s ruling led to a new legal fight over undated ballots cast during the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, which mushroomed into a larger battle that culminated with the Commonwealth Court ruling in August that undated ballots should be counted

Tuesday’s ruling from the US Supreme Court does not directly render undated mail-in ballots invalid, but it means that the Commonwealth Court’s ruling is likely to be challenged in court, possibly as early as this week, which could ultimately lead to changes in voting rules ahead of November’s elections in Pennsylvania.

I’m confused, what does this mean?

If you plan to vote by mail, make sure to date your ballot. 

While your ballot might still be counted even if you don’t date it, it’s best not to leave it to chance or to the whims of the Supreme Court. 


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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