An evenly divided U.S. Supreme Court allowed a three-day extension for the receipt of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, giving Democrats a boost in a state that could determine the presidential election.
The justices, voting 4-4 and giving no explanation, rejected a Republican bid to reinstate the state’s requirement that ballots arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline until Nov. 6, even if the ballots lacked a legible postmark showing they were mailed by Election Day.
The breakdown underscores the impact
Pennsylvania, where polls show Democrat
Pennsylvania is allowing no-excuse mail-in voting for the first time in 2020. A measure passed last year by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by the Democratic governor said those ballots had to be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
After the pandemic hit and then the
Pennsylvania’s top elections official, Democratic Secretary
Pennsylvania Republicans told the U.S. Supreme Court that the state court ruling violates the federal laws that establish a single nationwide Election Day. The ruling “has created a strong likelihood that ballots cast or mailed after the scheduled election day will count in the upcoming general election,” the
Two leading Republican state senators asked the U.S. Supreme Court to go even further and throw out the deadline extension altogether. They said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated a U.S. constitutional provision that says state legislatures get to set the rules for the presidential election.
“The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s decision makes precisely the kind of policy choices the elections clause assigned to the various state legislatures,” Senate President Pro Tempore
Democrats said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling didn’t change the state’s requirement that votes be cast by Election Day. And they said the U.S. Constitution doesn’t prevent a state’s highest court from interpreting its own constitution and election laws.
“Rather than usurping the role of the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court applied established state constitutional principles and then endeavored to discern the remedy that the General Assembly would have wanted,” the
Boockvar said Republicans were seeking to have the Supreme Court “intrude upon Pennsylvania law and sovereignty.”
The cases are Scarnati v. Boockvar, 20A53, and Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, 20A54.
(Updates with details on breakdown in third and fourth paragraph.)
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