High Court Refuses to Limit Pennsylvania Ballot Counting

A worker processes mail-in ballots in Doylestown, Pa., on May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a second attempt by Pennsylvania Republicans to block an extended deadline for the state to tally absentee ballots.

The vote was 5-3. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed to the court Monday night, did not participate in the decision “because of the need for a prompt resolution” of the issue, according to the court’s public information office.

Justice Samuel Alito penned a statement from the court, which he was joined in support by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas.

The high court in an evenly-divided ruling last week refused to let state Republicans enforce their original deadline for mail-in ballots — Republicans arguing the extension exceeded the court’s constitutional authority. The Constitutionality question, Alito wrote, would be “highly desirable” to resolve before the 2020 election.

“That question has national importance, and there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” Alito wrote.

However, the justice also added: “But I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election.”

Alito also noted in his statement, although the court will deny the motion to expedite review of the state Supreme Court’s decision, it has not made a ruling on whether the full bench will hear the case in the coming months. Conservative justices, including Brett Kavanaugh, have indicated they would be in favor of examining the case further.

“In addition, the Court’s denial of the motion to expedite is not a denial of a request for this Court to order that ballots received after election day be segregated so that if the State Supreme Court’s decision is ultimately overturned, a targeted remedy will be available,” Alito wrote.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro argued in his brief to the court in defense of the deadline extension, voters whose ballots were timely completed but not timely delivered due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, were irreparably harmed without an extension.

“Voters who themselves played by the rules will be disenfranchised if this Court grants the requested stay; through no fault of their own, their votes will be irrevocably lost,” the brief states.

Shapiro also argued the state’s Supreme Court has “the unfettered right” to interpret the state’s own constitution.

“A bedrock feature of our system of federalism is that state supreme courts are the ultimate expositors of state law,” the brief states.

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