On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court “denied a request from Pennsylvania’s Republican Party to shorten the deadlines for mail-in ballots in the state,” Axios reports. Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had extended the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots to be counted until the third day after Election Day, although ballots must still be dropped in the mail by Election Day in order to be valid. The extension of the deadline helps compensate for recent slowdowns in mail service that could delay ballots, but the Pennsylvania Republican Party had sought to get the earlier Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling put on hold. The ruling — and ballot deadline extension — are staying in place.
Breaking: Supreme Court will allow mail-in ballots to be counted in Pennsylvania if they are received three days after the election and are postmarked by election day, or do not have a postmark at all. The ruling is a loss to state republicans.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 19, 2020
As Axios noted, the Supreme Court’s decision is “a major win for Democrats that could decide the fate of thousands of ballots in a crucial swing state that President Trump won in 2016,” and the court’s ruling “may signal how it would deal with similar election-related litigation in other states.” The ruling was 4-4 — currently, the court has only eight members following the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and four justices were in favor of returning to the original mail-in ballot receiving deadline, while four were against the Pennsylvania GOP’s request. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal justices against the four remaining conservatives.
Currently, the Senate GOP is rushing the confirmation of Trump pick Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg, and the prospect of cases that are similar to the Pennsylvania one promptly coming before the court definitely doesn’t seem far-fetched. Before she actually joins the court, it’s unclear how precisely that Barrett might rule. Both of Trump’s previous picks — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — were on the side of restricting mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. If the Pennsylvania GOP’s request for a return to previous mail-in voting guidelines had been granted, then the U.S. Supreme Court would have seemingly been enacting court-ordered disenfranchisement of voters.
The Trump campaign filed its own lawsuit in the state of Pennsylvania over certain Pennsylvania absentee voting practices, including the usage of ballot drop boxes, which the campaign tried to get banned. Federal Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan threw out that lawsuit, concluding that the Trump campaign had failed to prove that there was a threat from absentee/mail-in ballot fraud that warranted the procedure changes that they were requesting. Trump himself has consistently sounded an alarm about a supposedly looming threat of system-threatening mail-in ballot fraud, but he has failed to prove his claims. Officials from his own administration have refuted his conspiracy theories.