US high court next up in Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot fight

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Republican requests to put on hold its decision to extend the deadline to receive and count mail-in ballots in November’s election.

The court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, rejected the request without comment, clearing Republicans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the ruling.

The divided court last week granted the Democratic Party’s request to order an extension of Pennsylvania’s Election Day deadline to count mailed-in 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 mail-in 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 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 that they were mailed before polls close. They say the ruling violates federal law setting Election Day as the first Tuesday in November and exceeded the court’s constitutional authority.

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