The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday to allow Pennsylvania to accept mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day.
The Court’s decision followed a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling requiring boards of elections to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6. Following the state court ruling, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. The Supreme Court declined to take up the Republican Party's challenge, leaving the original ruling in place, CNN reported.
While Democrats have consistently argued for extending the mail-in ballot deadline due to COVID-19 disruptions of the United States Postal Service, Republicans have gone to court in several states demanding stricter regulations around mail-in ballot counting, The New York Times reported.
If the vote totals on Nov. 3 in Pennsylvania are close enough that ballots received after Election Day could impact the state’s results, legal challenges over the ballots could prolong final election results, CNN reported.
An opinion accompanying the Supreme Court’s order by Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, suggested that the court may still revisit the case after the election and toss out contested mail-in ballots. Although the Supreme Court declined to rule on the matter before the election, Alito wrote that there was a "strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution."
Pennsylvania plans to segregate ballots received after Election Day in case the court takes future legal action to challenge them, CNN reported.
Recently confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not vote in the Wednesday decision, CNN reported.
In his opinion for a separate Supreme Court ruling against extending Wisconsin’s mail-in ballot deadline, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that such deadlines “avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”
Due to the possible future reversal of the Supreme Court’s Pennsylvania decision, Pennsylvania voters should vote in person at an elections office or polling station rather than by mail to ensure their vote is counted, Vox reported.