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US Election 2020 | Supreme Court Steps In

For what is sure not to be the last time, the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) has issued a mixed batch of decisions regarding the 2020 Election.

On North Carolina: The case arrived with SCOTUS from a federal appeals court which allowed a nine day extension by the State Board of Elections in response to the pandemic. Republicans requested that a three day extension which was agreed by the State Legislature in June be reinstated, instead of the nine day grace period (due to start on election day) for the arrival of mail-in ballots. SCOTUS turned down the Republican request and any ballot that arrives during the nine days following election day will be counted, although it must be post marked by election day.

On Wisconsin: A US District Court judge issued a six day extension for the arrival of absentee ballots in the State last month, which Republicans appealed to SCOTUS. Democrats resisted the appeal on the basis that it would disenfranchise voters who wished to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Justices voted along idealistic lines in a 5-3 decision which now requires Wisconsin voters to return their ballots on or before election day.

On Pennsylvania: State law usually requires ballots to arrive with the Clerk's Office no later than 8pm on election day in order for them to be counted. However, this year due to the coronavirus pandemic the State Supreme Court granted an extension to absentee voters of three days, meaning that ballots which were post marked on or before election day and arrived with the Clerk within three days of the election, would be counted. Last week Republicans requested that SCOTUS intervene and stay the judgment pending appeal which SCOTUS refused to do. Republicans then requested that SCOTUS expedite their appeal, which SCOTUS also declined to do.

These decisions by SCOTUS will have no impact on significant swathes of the US electorate, due to the significant number who have already cast their ballots, whether by mail or in person. However, there is great concern across the United States for those who have or intend to cast their ballots by mail, due to the slow-down in the United States Postal Service which is generally attributed to its CEO Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee. Current advice to voters who have received an absentee ballot is that they should not return it via the postal service (and this has been the advice since 27th October 2020) as it is unlikely to reach the County Elections Clerk in time to be counted in many states. Instead, absentee voters should return the ballot to the Clerk's Office in-person, or vote in-person prior to or on election day.