The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed election officials in Pennsylvania and North Carolina to accept absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day.
The court declined a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to decide before Election Day whether the deadline for accepting mail ballots can be extended to Nov. 6 and in North Carolina allowed lower courts’ rulings that would extend the deadline up to nine days after Nov. 3.
Both decisions were announced in unsigned orders, an abnormality for emergency cases.
Wednesday’s decision on the Pennsylvania case came after a deadlocked 4-4 vote by the court on Oct. 19 left the state Supreme Court’s ruling to allow the extension to remain in place.
The court did indicate they may return to the case after the election, which may lead to some ballots received after Election Day disqualified.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court on Tuesday, did not take part in either case as a court spokeswoman said she’d “not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”
In a statement, Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — all of whom previously said they would have granted the Republican Party’s application to intervene — said the court’s handling of the case “needlessly created conditions that could lead to serious post-election problems.”
“But I reluctantly conclude there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election,” Alito wrote.
In the North Carolina case, the Supreme Court was asked to weigh in on whether the state board of elections was permitted to use its powers to address natural disasters to add increase the deadline for receiving ballots from three days to nine days.
The same three conservative judges dissented from the ruling with Gorsuch and Alito criticizing the board’s “constitutional overreach.”
“Such last-minute changes by largely unaccountable bodies, too, invite confusion, risk altering election outcomes and in the process threaten voter confidence in the results,” the ruling said.
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