Pennsylvania Supreme Court extends deadline for mail-in ballots

Voters in Pennsylvania can return their ballots after Election Day, the state’s highest court decreed.

Republicans in the state are outraged by the decision, which makes it more likely that Americans will not know who the next president will be on Election Night.

PA ballots may be returned after Election Day

In a victory for the state’s Democrats, the state’s Democrat-led Supreme Court decided that voters can return mail-in ballots by 5 p.m. on the Friday after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked by the time polls close.

The court pushed back the deadline by citing a part of the Election Code that references natural emergencies, as the coronavirus prompts an unprecedented push for remote voting. Republicans in the state slammed the decision, echoing President Donald Trump’s warnings about potential voter fraud this November, with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) accusing the state Supreme Court of flouting the law for political reasons.

“Once again, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided that laws have no meaning. The current state election statute, which was signed by Governor Wolf less than a year ago, is clear that mail-in ballots must be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted,” Toomey said.

“Today’s blatantly political decision to violate the law irresponsibly heightens the risk that our state will experience a lengthy, disputed, and controversial outcome in what is expected to be an extremely close presidential race.”

The decision is one of three that will probably play to the advantage of Democrats: the court also decided to strike the Green Party from the ballot and will allow mail ballots to be collected in drop boxes.

Michigan follows

The Supreme Court’s decisions certainly make it more likely that the critical swing state will not be called on Election Day, raising the prospect of a contested election.

Some three million Pennsylvanians are expected to vote by mail this year, which is ten times more than in 2016 when then-candidate Trump’s victory in the state helped propel him to the White House.

“It’s not impossible that the Pennsylvania outcome could decide who the next president is,” said Mark Nevins, a Philadelphia-based Democratic consultant, “and if the counting process is prolonged, get ready for our state to be overrun with lawyers, surrogates, and rabid partisans on both sides.”

Michigan, another swing state, followed suit on Friday, granting that ballots postmarked by November 2 can be counted 14 days after the election.

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