Supreme Court Orders Pennsylvania Election Boards to Keep Ballots Received After Election Day Separated
How do you feel about the Court’s order?
by SCOTUS WATCH | 11.6.20
What’s the story?
- The Supreme Court issued an order Friday night to require county election boards in the state of Pennsylvania to segregate and count separately mail-in ballots received after Election Day. The ballots are at the center of a legal challenge which may soon be heard by the full Supreme Court.
How did we get here?
- Pennsylvania law, as enacted by the legislature and governor, requires that mail-in ballots be received by election officials by Election Day, November 3rd.
- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ― an elected, partisan body made up of 5 Democratic justices and 2 Republican justices ― issued a decision in September to count as valid ballots received by November 6th because state law permits ballots to be mailed on Election Day and it takes time for mail to be delivered. Under the state court’s ruling, the ballots do not need to have a clear postmark as long as there isn’t proof they were mailed after the polls closed.
- On October 20th, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to put a hold on the Pennsylvania Republican party’s appeal of the state court’s ruling while it was heard by lower federal courts, but left open the possibility of considering it on the merits.
- The Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) issued guidances on October 28th and November 1st that mail-in ballots received after 8pm on November 3rd be segregated and kept “in a secure, safe and sealed container separate from other voted ballots” and that such ballots, if counted, be counted separately.
- Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “neither the applicant nor the Secretary has been able to verify that all boards are complying with the Secretary’s guidance, which, it is alleged, is not legally binding on them.”
- Alito’s order concluded by directing state elections officials, including Secretary Boockvar and the state Democratic Party, to respond by 2pm tomorrow. He also said that he is “immediately referring this application to the Conference” ― the meeting in which justices discuss a case and vote regarding whether they will hear oral arguments.
- It’s not clear how many mail-in ballots have been received by Pennsylvania election boards during the three day period after Election Day, or how many lack postmarks indicating when they were mailed. Additionally, it’s unclear whether mail-in ballots received after Election Day have been counted and reported as part of the public-facing tabulation.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Cindy Shebly)
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