Jim Brewster will be sworn in as a state senator today, ending a dispute over counting ballots in Allegheny County. The U-S District Court for Western Pennsylvania ruled on Tuesday that disputed votes in the state’s 45th senatorial district should be counted. Republicans lost challenges in state and federal courts to Democrat Brewster’s narrow victory in November. But on January 5th, Senate Republicans blocked Brewster from taking the oath of office, insisting on another federal court ruling.
The G-O-P wanted to toss out 23-hundred mail-in ballots that lacked a written date on the outer envelope, but had been received on time. Marc Stier, who heads the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, says the court ruled the federal claims of Brewster’s opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli, failed on their merits. But the state Supreme Court had ruled those ballots could be counted. Stier believes Ziccarelli might have had a stronger case had she gone to court to demand that those similar ballots in Westmoreland County also be counted. About 15 years ago, Republicans joined with Democrats to extend and expand the Voting Rights Act. But Stier points out that the access to ballots – and even the voters’ right to choose electors in a presidential election – have become partisan issues.