On Wednesday, the Supreme Court refused to take another look at the issue of late-arriving mail ballots in the state of Pennsylvania, leaving intact a lower court ruling that said the state must count ballots that arrive up to three days after the election. It was the second time Republicans had asked the court to roll back the deadline. They lost Oct. 19 on a 4-4 vote, when the justices denied their request to put a hold on a lower court order extending the deadline.
Wednesday’s vote was 5-3, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch saying the court should have taken the case immediately. In trying again, the Republicans apparently hoped that newly appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s arrival would help them prevail. But she sat this one out, taking no part in the consideration or disposition of the motion. A court spokeswoman said that was “because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”
Voters in Pennsylvania can request mail ballots as late as seven days before the election, and they must be delivered to them within two days after the requests are received, leaving only a short time for the completed ballots to be delivered.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that the free and equal clause of the state Constitution required an accommodation in light of mail delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It determined that voters would be disenfranchised if their ballots were stuck in mail sorting facilities because of expected Postal Service delays. Under the ruling, ballots can arrive as late as three days after the polls close, unless there’s evidence that a ballot was mailed after Election Day. State election officials began following the ruling immediately, telling Pennsylvania voters that their ballots would be accepted if they are received by Nov. 6, provided they are mailed on or before Election Day.
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