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FILE - This Wednesday, April 10, 2019, file photo, shows the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. More than a dozen Pennsylvania state legislators have announced they won't be seeking reelection in 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A federal judge has rejected arguments made by Nicole Ziccarelli, a losing Republican candidate, who sought to have 331 mail-in ballots in Allegheny County barred from the count in her race for state Senate.

With the votes included, incumbent Sen. James Brewster, D-Allegheny County, won by 69 votes.

U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan rejected the argument by the Republican challenger that Allegheny County was not justified in counting mail-in ballots without a handwritten date.

In his decision Ranjan said he has a “fundamental disagreement” with the way the Republicans were trying to interpret the state Supreme Court’s decision.

“The Court finds that the Supreme Court expressly held that the undated ballots at issue remain valid,” Ranjan wrote in an opinion released Tuesday morning. “Ms. Ziccarelli’s federal constitutional claims all depend on the invalidity of the ballots under state law, those claims necessarily fail on the merits,” he said.

Ranjan said that even if the court were to consider whether Westmoreland County, which didn’t count similar ballots, and Allegheny County had employed unequal practices, refusing to count the Allegheny County votes would not be a viable solution.

Senate Democrats immediately called for Brewster to be seated based on the ruling.

“My colleague Senator Brewster won more votes, affirmed that victory in state courts, and had it confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of State. He’s been declared the winner more times and in more ways than should be necessary, but I believe that the matter is now unequivocally settled,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny County. “I look forward to Senator Brewster’s swearing in ceremony and watching him take the oath of office I know he will faithfully abide every day of his service,” he said.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

 

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CNHI PA State Reporter

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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