U.S. Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Mail-In Ballots After Election Day

By Shani Saxon Oct 21, 2020

In yet another round of SCOTUS vs. POTUS, Trump walks away with the L.

A deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (October 19) let stand a lower court ruling allowing Pennsylvania to count mail-in ballots up to three days after the November 3 election. This is a big blow to the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, which filed the appeal stating that such an extension for the battleground state “violates federal law that sets Election Day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and that such a decision constitutionally belongs to lawmakers, not the courts,” Time reports. 

According to Time:

The justices divided 4-4 on Monday, an outcome that upholds a state Supreme Court ruling that required county election officials to receive and count mailed-in ballots that arrive up until Nov. 6, even if they don’t have a clear postmark, as long as there is not proof it was mailed after the polls closed.

Lawrence Tabas, Pennsylvania’s Republican Party chairman, told Time the party isn’t happy about the SCOTUS decision. “It only underscores the importance of having a full Supreme Court as soon as possible,” he said. “To be clear, the Supreme Court decided not to grant a stay—which does not mean the actions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would withstand a legal challenge to their judicial overreach should the court hear the case,” he added. 

In a statement, Nancy Patton Mills, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, accused Republicans of attempting to suppress votes and sow confusion among voters. “This is a significant victory for Pennsylvania voters,” she said. 

Time reports that: "The Democratic majority on the state’s high court had cited warnings that postal service delays could invalidate huge numbers of ballots and surging demand for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic to invoke the power, used previously by the state’s courts, to extend election deadlines during a disaster emergency."

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices—Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer—in rejecting Republicans’ request for the court to put a hold on the state court’s previous ruling, Time reports. SCOTUS didn’t include any opinions with the order, which means there is no clear indication of what motivated the decision. 

As Time reports, “most states make Election Day the deadline, but 18 states—half of which backed Trump in the 2016 election—have a post-Election Day deadline.”

Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, said the commonwealth doesn’t need any interference in its voting process. “With nearly a million votes already cast in Pennsylvania,” he began, “we support the court’s decision not to meddle in our already-working system.”