The Supreme Court on Friday ordered Pennsylvania election boards to separately count mail ballots that arrived after Election Day, while rejecting a GOP request to stop counting those votes.
The order, signed by conservative Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoSupreme Court grapples over Catholic organization’s fight against nondiscrimination law This election is headed to the courts, but Democrats have lawyers too The most anti-environmental court in the modern era MORE, left open the possibility that the justices could exclude the late-arriving ballots in a subsequent ruling, a move which Alito and at least two other conservative justices have previously signaled they may be inclined to take.
The number of affected ballots is believed to be between 3,000 and 4,000. Election law experts said that even if the justices were to later invalidate them, the only way this would impact the outcome of the race between President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden pulls ahead of Trump in Georgia Biden takes lead in Georgia, makes gains in Pennsylvania Gore: This election is ‘completely different’ than 2000 MORE and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden pulls ahead of Trump in Georgia Biden takes lead in Georgia, makes gains in Pennsylvania Gore: This election is ‘completely different’ than 2000 MORE is if the election were decided by Pennsylvania and the pair were separated in the state by a very slim margin.
Friday’s order was the first time the Supreme Court has gotten involved in a state count after this year’s election.
The court granted only part of what was sought by Pennsylvania Republicans, who are challenging the state’s extended Friday mail ballot deadline. The state GOP requested justices halt the counting of late-arriving ballots.
“This preserves the status quo until any further order of the Court, after the possibility of a response,” said Ned Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University. “It’s also significant in that it does not stop the counting of the segregated votes, but rather requires them to be counted separately — which is a sensible way to prevent any possible commingling of ballots that could not be undone later.”
Updated at 9:13 p.m.