Consequences of Minor Irregularities In Casting a Vote

In Shambach v. Bickhart, 577 Pa. 384, 845 A.2d 793 (2004), the Court noted the general principles that "longstanding and overriding policy" calls for protection of the elective franchise and that, while election laws must be strictly construed to prevent fraud, some voting requirements should be construed liberally in favor of the right to vote so that minor irregularities in casting a vote result in striking that vote only if there exists compelling reason. Id. at 392, 845 A.2d at 798. In Shambach, the Court considered whether the language in Section 1112-A(b)(3), directing that a write-in vote may be cast for "any person not already on the ballot," rendered invalid those ballots on which the voter had cast a write-in vote for a candidate named on the ballot. The Court noted the distinction between the language in Section 1112-A(b)(3), 25 P.S. 3031.12(b)(3), (pertaining to paper ballots counted electronically), which directs that a write-in vote not be cast for a person already listed on the ballot, and the language in Section 1216(e), 25 P.S. 3056(e), (pertaining to votes cast on a voting machine), which explicitly prohibits counting a write-in vote for a person already named on the ballot. The Court stated, "we refuse to read an all-out prohibition into Section 1112-A(b)(3) where one is not explicitly required, particularly given the Commonwealth's longstanding policy to protect the elective franchise.