Lawsuit filed on behalf of five voters in Lehigh County who, along with 252 other voters, had their ballots rejected because there was not a handwritten date next to their voter declaration signature on the outer ballot envelope. Because of this, these 257 ballots were not counted in an election to select a judge to the Court of Common Pleas. After a state court ruled that the ballots could not be counted, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit alleging that not counting these ballots violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and First and 14th Amendments because ballots are rejected for an “immaterial technical defect” and this unduly burdens voters. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, ruling that provision of the Civil Rights Act under which the plaintiffs brought their claim does not create a private right of action, meaning that the plaintiffs cannot sue under this provision. The district court also rejected the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment claim.
The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which expedited the appeal and ordered Lehigh County to not certify the election results until the court took further action. The 3rd Circuit held that the undated ballots should not be rejected for an “immaterial technical defect” and should be counted. The court also found that the Civil Rights Act creates a private right of action.
The Republican candidate in this race filed an emergency application in the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to pause the 3rd Circuit’s ruling, which the Court granted in an administrative order. In a full order, the Court denied the application for a stay, thereby vacating the previous administrative stay. The Republican candidate then filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the merits of the case. On Oct. 11, the Supreme Court vacated the 3rd Circuit’s ruling and remanded (meaning sent back) the case to the 3rd Circuit to be dismissed as moot.
Case Documents (district court)
Case Documents (3rd circuit)
Case Documents (U.S. Supreme COurt)