The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court has delivered a significant victory for Democrats and approved the extension of the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. Although previously, mail-in ballots had to be received by election authorities by the time that in-person polling places closed on Election Day, the new deadline for receiving mail-in ballots is 5 P.M. on the third day after Election Day. The change could help thwart potential impacts from slowdowns in mail delivery that have cropped up recently nationwide and have left some observers concerned about getting mail-in ballots returned to authorities on time.
Mail-in ballots in the state will have to be postmarked by 8 P.M. on Election Day, although the state Supreme Court noted that ballots without a clear postmark that are received during the three-day period after Election Day “will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that [they were] mailed after Election Day.” The state Democratic Party and the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar, had both advocated on behalf of extending the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. Republicans, who seem remarkably adept at finding new and inventive ways to fight against voting rights on a consistent basis, opposed extending the deadline.
The state Supreme Court’s Thursday ruling addressed topics other than the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. The court also ruled that drop boxes for absentee ballots are legal; the Trump campaign recently filed a suit in federal court seeking to stop the usage of drop boxes in the state, but the judge in that case — J. Nicholas Ranjan, a Trump appointee — placed the case on hold while the state Supreme Court case proceeded, since they covered similar ground. Ranjan also denied a request from the Trump campaign for an order temporarily demanding the separation of ballots cast via drop boxes from ballots cast through other means; they feared that if the ballots mixed, their case could become moot.
According to POLITICO, Pennsylvania “is one of a handful of states where election officials cannot begin processing and tallying mail ballots until Election Day.” Thus, final results from the state might not come out right away, especially in light of the extension of the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. FiveThirtyEight estimates that Pennsylvania is the state that’s most likely to put the winning presidential candidate over the top this November. Biden currently leads in the state by an average of 4.8 percent, according to the same site.