(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday declined Pennsylvania legislative Republicans’ request for an expedited hearing on the state’s absentee ballot deadline.
State GOP leaders hoped the justices might reconsider the case ahead of Election Day after issuing a split decision last week to let a lower court ruling stand permitting counting of ballots received up to three days after Nov. 3.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito agreed that despite an interest in considering the merits of the case, it was too close to the general election to proceed with an expedited hearing now.
“I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election,” Alito concluded. “Although the Court denies the motion to expedite, the petition for [appeal] remains before us and if it is granted, the case can then be decided under a shortened schedule.”
A postelection decision could change how ballots are counted, meaning Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes may remain in contention for weeks, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, and President Pro Temp Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said.
“While the U.S. Supreme Court did not expedite a hearing, segregating the ballots means our Constitutional concerns could still be addressed after the election,” the leaders said. “We are encouraged that Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas indicated there was a ‘strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution’ and they may hear this case after the election.”
Pennsylvania remains pivotal to both President Donald Trump’s reelection strategy and Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s plan to unseat him. In 2016, Trump became the first Republican to flip the state since 1988, defeating Hillary Clinton by less than 50,000 votes.
State election officials said earlier this week the state’s results will be accurate, albeit delayed by post office backlogs and laws forbidding pre-canvasing of absentee ballots – of which more than 3 million have been requested ahead of Election Day.
“We deserve to have a fair election,” Gov. Tom Wolf said during a news conference Monday. “All votes will be counted and the numbers will be accurate – it will just take little longer than usual.”
Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar urged residents with unreturned absentee ballots to avoid using the post office and instead return their votes directly to county board of election offices.
“If you don’t have to mail it, don’t mail it,” Boockvar said. “Just drop it off. We all know there’s mail delays. Just do it. I don’t want voters to worry about what the courts will or won’t do. Just bring it in.