Pennsylvania Republicans go to Supreme Court over absentee ballots

Pennsylvania Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to block a lower court opinion that allowed absentee ballots to be counted up to three days after the election, arguing that the extension “could destroy the American public’s confidence in the electoral system as a whole.”

The shift in deadline could have sweeping consequences for voters in a crucial battleground state where authorities are anticipating historic levels of voting by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawyers for state party leaders filed an emergency petition on Monday challenging the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s decision earlier this month allowing election officials to count absentee ballots received up to three days after the election, if they are postmarked by Election Day. The change would allow the votes of thousands of Pennsylvanians that would’ve been rejected for arriving after Election Day to be counted.

The lawyers argued that the decision “forces officials to count ballots received up to three days after Election Day, even if they lack a legible postmark or any postmark at all.”

They called the ruling an “open invitation” to voters to cast their ballots after Election Day, which would inject “chaos and the potential for gamesmanship into what was an orderly and secure schedule of clear, bright-line deadlines.”

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s ruling had come following court challenges from the state Democratic Party, which aimed to ease Pennsylvania’s absentee voting procedures amid the pandemic and a surge in mail-in ballots.

The Trump campaign and Pennsylvania Republicans had sought to place a hard ban on ballots arriving after Election Day. They also wanted to be able to recruit poll-watchers from neighboring counties, but the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected that request and upheld a state law banning out-of-county poll-watchers.

The state has weathered other recent controversy surrounding mail-in ballots. On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it was investigating “potential issues with mail-in ballots” in Pennsylvania and, in a highly unusual disclosure, revealed that of nine ballots that were found to have been “discarded,” seven were marked for President Donald Trump. Election officials go to extraordinary lengths to protect ballot secrecy.

On Friday, local officials in Pennsylvania said the issue regarding nine military ballots was caused by a “temporary seasonal independent contractor” who “incorrectly discarded (the ballots) into the office trash” within their first three days of work helping the elections office. Following an investigation, the contractor “was removed from service and informed not to return.”

The officials called this an “error” and said the fact that it was quickly noticed and investigated proves that “the system of checks and balances set forth in Pennsylvania elections works.”