Supreme Court Justice Temporarily Grants GOP Ballot Request (2)

Nov. 7, 2020, 2:54 AM

A U.S. Supreme Court justice issued a temporary order requiring Pennsylvania officials to segregate ballots that arrived after Election Day, granting for now a request by the state’s Republican Party.

Justice Samuel Alito’s Friday night order came as part of a fight over ballots received during a three-day extension issued before the election by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

It’s far from clear the skirmish will affect the election struggle between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, who is leading in the pivotal state. The state’s top elections official, Kathy Boockvar, said Thursday the number of late-arriving ballots would be only a “tiny fraction” of the 60,000 received in the three days after the primary in June.

Although state officials have already told county officials to separate out the late-arriving ballots, Republicans said that step didn’t go far enough to ensure they can be invalidated later.

Alito also ordered Pennsylvania counties to count late-arriving ballots separately, though he stopped short of halting those counts altogether, as Republicans are seeking.

The order marks the first time the nation’s highest court has intervened in the post-election wrangling. Alito, a Republican appointee who handles emergency matters from Pennsylvania, said he would refer the matter to the full Supreme Court for the next steps. He ordered Democrats to respond by Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Washington time.

Late Discovery

Boockvar told county officials on Oct. 28 to separate out the late-arriving ballots. Later that day, Alito pointed to Boockvar’s guidance when he agreed with the court not to expedite the broader dispute over the ballot-receipt extension so it could be resolved before Election Day.

In his two-page order Friday, Alito suggested he now agreed with Republicans that Boockvar’s directive was inadequate. He said it isn’t clear all Pennsylvania counties are complying with Boockvar’s guidance.

Alito also suggested annoyance that he didn’t learn until Friday that Boockvar had issued updated guidance on Nov. 1 telling the boards to count the late-arriving ballots as soon as possible, while keeping the tallies separate.

“Until today, this court was not informed that the guidance issued on Oct. 28, which had an important bearing on the question whether to order special treatment of the ballots in question, had been modified,” Alito wrote.

(Updates to include excerpt from order in final paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

Elizabeth Wasserman, John Harney

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