Pennsylvania Can Count Late-Arriving Mail-In Ballots, Supreme Court Rules

( Pennsylvania Republicans were dealt a blow on Monday when their appeal to not count ballots that arrive after election day was denied by the Supreme Court.

The vote was a 4-4 tie, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the three liberal justices. This marks yet another time recently when Roberts, apparently a conservative, has sided with liberal justices in a ruling. A majority was required to overturn the lower court ruling, but with only eight justices currently on the court, a tie is possible until a replacement is appointed.

Because of the tie, a lower court ruling from the Pennsylvania state supreme court will remain in effect. It allows ballots to be counted if they arrive after election day only if they are either mailed or postmarked by November 3. These late-arriving ballots can arrive up to three days late.

This was a victory for liberals, who have feared that delays with the delivery of mail by the U.S. Postal Service could result in thousands of ballots arriving after election day. Republicans in the state were fighting to prevent mail-in ballots from being counted if they arrived after election day.

Last year, the legislature in Pennsylvania changed its voting rules to allow all voters in the state to vote by mail. When they changed the rule initially, ballots had to arrive by election day in order to be counted.

However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the election boards in Pennsylvania’s counties struggled with counting the more than 1 million people in the state who switched to a mail-in ballot. That prompted the elections board to change the rules again, allowing ballots that arrived up to three days after election day to still be counted.

President Donald Trump was not happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, saying on Tuesday morning:

“We got a ruling yesterday that was ridiculous — where they can count ballots after the election’s over. What kind of a thing? So, we’re going to wait until after November 3 and start announcing states? It’s crazy.”

The Supreme Court ruling upheld the state lower court ruling. In a September 4-3 vote, the Pennsylvania supreme court agreed to “adopt” the previous recommendation of Kathy Boockvar, the secretary of state, which allowed the deadline for ballots to be received to be extended until November 6.

The state judges in that case cited a lawyer from the U.S. Postal Service, who said there’s a “significant risk” that election ballots that were mailed at the end of October wouldn’t arrive to a county election office by the November 3 election date.

Conservatives did win a small victory in the state supreme court regarding ballots, though. Pennsylvania’s high court upheld a rule that requires ballots that are mailed to arrive in a secured safety envelope. Liberals were fighting to remove that requirement.

Leaders in the Republican Party and state legislature each filed emergency appeals with the Supreme Court to stop the practice of accepting late-arriving ballots, but they lost that fight on Monday.