Updated Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pennsylvania Republicans ask Supreme Court to reiterate ballot rules

Election workers count votes in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Election officials count votes at the Allegheny County elections warehouse in Pittsburgh Friday. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Pennsylvania Republicans asked the Supreme Court on Friday to reiterate the rules for counting mail-in votes in the state, while acknowledging that they have no evidence to suggest those rules aren't being followed. The court granted the request late Friday.

The big picture: The Trump campaign has been clear that it wants to get the election before the Supreme Court somehow or another, but this new effort, as the results in Pennsylvania become clearer, is still highly unlikely to make much of a difference.

Details: Pennsylvania election officials said before Election Day that they would count mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 3 but arrived a few days later. There's an ongoing legal dispute about whether that extension was legal.

  • Because the extension is in dispute, state courts ordered Pennsylvania to segregate late-arriving votes from those that arrived on time — in case the late ones ultimately don't count.
  • Pennsylvania's secretary of state has issued two memos to election officials ordering them to comply with that instruction and keep the ballots separate.
  • The Pennsylvania Republican Party filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday asking it to issue its own order requiring those ballots to be kept separate.
  • The party did not present any evidence or allegations that county officials aren't complying with the requirements, but said that "in the fast-paced and chaotic pace of postelection events in Pennsylvania, it is unclear whether all 67 county boards of elections are currently segregating late-arriving ballots."

The big picture: If the high court grants this request, it would allow Republicans to say they got something out of the Supreme Court — but it would be something they already had, and that's unlikely to make a difference.

  • These late-arriving ballots are very unlikely to determine who wins Pennsylvania. The state has said there aren't that many of them. If Biden can win the state without those votes, this case won't matter.
  • And while election-season emergency petitions are unique, the Supreme Court is not typically in the habit of issuing just-to-be-on-the-safe-side orders when no legal violation has been alleged.

This story has been updated to note that Justice Samuel Alito granted the request.

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