Court up­holds count­ing late bal­lots in 2 swing states

Jus­tices re­ject GOP ap­peals in N. Carolina and Penn­syl­va­nia.

Los Angeles Times - - ELEC­TION 2020 - By David G. Sav­age

WASH­ING­TON — The Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day turned down an ap­peal from North Carolina’s Repub­li­can lead­ers, leav­ing in place rul­ings that re­quire the count­ing of late- ar­riv­ing bal­lots as long as they were in the mail by elec­tion day.

The 5- 3 de­ci­sion had the ef­fect of up­hold­ing ac­tions by the North Carolina board of elec­tions to ex­tend the dead­lines in re­sponse to the COVID- 19 pan­demic.

Sep­a­rately Wed­nes­day, the jus­tices also turned down a sec­ond ap­peal from Penn­syl­va­nia’s Repub­li­can lead­ers, who had urged the court to block state court rul­ings that al­lowed for count­ing late- ar­riv­ing mail bal­lots. Last week, the jus­tices, on a tie vote, left in place the same state rul­ing.

A few days later, their lawyers tried again, ar­gu­ing the court should take up the en­tire case and is­sue a writ­ten rul­ing. That re­quest was turned down unan­i­mously. Speak­ing for three con­ser­va­tives, Jus­tice Sa­muel A. Al­ito Jr. said it was too late to de­cide the case be­fore the elec­tion, but he left the open the pos­si­bil­ity the court could re­con­sider the le­gal­ity of the late- ar­riv­ing bal­lots after Nov. 3.

The pair of de­ci­sions are vic­to­ries for Democrats and vot­ing rights ad­vo­cates who ar­gued for ex­tend­ing the dead­lines for count­ing bal­lots that were post­marked by elec­tion day. In North Carolina, bal­lots may ar­rive as late as Nov. 12 and still be counted. The dead­line for mail bal­lots in Penn­syl­va­nia is Nov. 6, three days after the


The three most con­ser­va­tive jus­tices dis­sented in the North Carolina case. The court said Jus­tice Amy Coney Bar­rett, who won Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion on

Mon­day, did not take part in ei­ther de­ci­sion.

The out­come is some­what of a sur­prise, and it may re­flect the fact that it is very late for the courts to tam­per with the dead­lines.

In ad­di­tion, North Carolina of­fi­cials said the re­laxed dead­line for count­ing late bal­lots did not clearly conf lict with state law.

In re­cent weeks, the high court has reg­u­larly blocked changes in the vot­ing rules or dead­lines that were or­dered by fed­eral judges in re­sponse to the pan­demic. The court’s con­ser­va­tives have ar­gued it is most im­por­tant to main­tain the pro­ce­dures set in state elec­tion law prior to this year.

But in the North Carolina case, the state board of elec­tions agreed to the longer dead­line, and both state and fed­eral judges ap­proved the Nov. 9 dead­line be­cause of the pan­demic and the U. S. Postal Ser­vice’s de­lay in de­liv­er­ing the mail.

Jus­tices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gor­such and Al­ito said they would have granted the ap­peal and blocked the longer dead­line.

Chief Jus­tice John G.

Roberts Jr. and Jus­tice Brett M. Ka­vanaugh voted with the three lib­eral jus­tices to turn away the ap­peal, but none of them ex­plained their rea­sons.

In their ap­peal, the Repub­li­can lead­ers of the North Carolina Leg­is­la­ture had ac­cused the state board of chang­ing the state’s vot­ing laws on the eve of the elec­tion.

They ar­gued that “the public in­ter­est fa­vors ad­her­ing to the rules for the elec­tion es­tab­lished by the Gen­eral Assem­bly and in place when the vot­ing be­gan, not con­trary rules that the North Carolina State Board of Ed­u­ca­tions” had adopted in re­sponse to re­ports of Postal Ser­vice de­lays.

Lawyers for the state board said they acted in re­sponse to warn­ings from the Postal Ser­vice that de­lays in mail de­liv­ery could re­sult in legally cast bal­lots ar­riv­ing too late to be counted.

Chip So­mod­ev­illa Getty I mages

THE Supreme Court re­fused to in­ter­vene in two dis­putes in­volv­ing bal­lots ar­riv­ing after elec­tion day.

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