Republicans lose a round in Pennsylvania mail voting dispute

The Associated Press
FILE - In this May 28, 2020, file photo processing work on mail in ballots for the Pennsylvania Primary election is being done at the Butler County Bureau of Elections, in Butler, Pa. With concerns rising in Pennsylvania that tens of thousands of mail-in ballots will be discarded in the presidential election over technicalities, officials in the battleground state told counties that they aren't allowed to reject a ballot solely because an election official believes a signature doesn't match the signature in the voter’s file.  (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt a blow Thursday to Republicans in the legal fight over the deadline for mailed ballots in the presidential battleground state.

The court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, rejected without comment a request by Republicans to put on hold its decision to extend the deadline for receiving and counting mail-in ballots.

Republicans are now likely to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the ruling.

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The divided court last week granted the Democratic Party’s request to order an extension of Pennsylvania’s Election Day deadline to count mailed ballots.

The court said ballots must be postmarked by the time polls close and be received by county election boards at 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, three days after the Nov. 3 election.

It cited warnings of the prospect of Postal Service delays in invalidating huge numbers of ballots and demand for mailed ballots during the coronavirus pandemic to invoke the power, used previously by the state’s courts, to extend election deadlines during a disaster emergency.

Ballots can be counted if they lack a postmark, a legible postmark or some other proof of mailing unless a “preponderance of the evidence” shows it was mailed after Election Day, the court said.

Republicans opposed changing the deadline, as well as counting ballots without legible postmarks to prove they were mailed before polls closed. They say the ruling violates federal law that sets Election Day as the first Tuesday in November and exceeded the court’s constitutional authority.