Pennsylvania can count late-arriving ballots, U.S. Supreme Court rules

U.S. Supreme Court, Dec. 2, 2019. Credit: Robin Bravender

Elections officials in Pennsylvania can count absentee ballots that are received as late as the Friday after Election Day, as long as they’re postmarked by Nov. 3, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday.

According to NPR, the nation’s highest court declined without comment a challenge filed by legislative Republicans, who sought to override last month’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling allowing the state to count late-arriving ballots.

Republicans had argued that it was the province of the Legislature, not the courts, to set the rules for elections.

The court’s conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas said they would have agreed to the stay request. Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the Court’s three most liberal member to reject the request, NPR reported.

In a statement, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office is charged with defending state statute in court, said the high court’s ruling “makes clear our law will stand despite repeated attacks. Pennsylvanians can continue to use drop boxes and ballots postmarked by Election Day will have extra time to arrive at election offices.

With nearly a million votes already cast in Pennsylvania, we support the Court’s decision not to meddle in our already-working system. I said my office would protect your vote — we did and will continue until every eligible voice is heard in this election.”

Voting rights advocates similarly hailed the decision. In a statement, Suzanne Almeida, the interim director of the good government group, Common Cause of Pennsylvania, welcomed the ruling.

“Our democracy is stronger when every vote – whether it is cast in person or by mail – is counted. Today’s decision is a win for voters and for our democracy,” Almeida said. “But it’s important to know that by extending the deadline to receive voted mail-in ballots, we will need to be even more patient in waiting for the results. It’s important that every single vote is counted as long as it is received by the deadline.”

John Micek
John L. Micek is an award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years experience in the news business. He is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, and his weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star is an affiliate of the States Newsroom, a nonprofit network of news outlets covering state government, politics, policy and finance in state capitals across the country. The Florida Phoenix is one of those outlets.