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Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. Photo: Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images

The Supreme Court voted 5-3 on Wednesday to deny a bid from Pennsylvania Republicans to expedite their request to shorten the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the decision.

Why it matters: A lower court ruling allowing ballots to be counted until 5pm on Nov. 6, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, will remain in place for now.

Between the lines: Conservative Justices Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch wrote in a separate opinion that it's too close to the election to take up the case, but it could still be reviewed after the election if late-arriving ballots make a difference.

  • Earlier on Wednesday, Pennsylvania's state government directed election officials to separate ballots received before and after 8pm on Election Day in case the Supreme Court decides the late-arriving ballots must be thrown out.
  • While Alito leaving the door open for a fast post-election decision will spark some concern among Democrats, only two of the eight judges who considered the case concurred with him.
  • The court last week was deadlocked 4-4 on a previous request from Pennsylvania Republicans to shorten the deadline to Election Day. The GOP likely filed another motion because the court now has a ninth justice, according to elections expert Rick Hasen.

Worth noting: "Justice Barrett did not participate in the consideration of this motion because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings," according to a statement from the Supreme Court's Public Information Office.

The bottom line: There's a real chance that Pennsylvania — and thousands of ballots that don't arrive until after Election Day — could decide who wins the presidential election.

Read the statement from Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

More Republicans denounce GOP plans to challenge election results

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Oct. 15 in D.C. Photo: Bill O'Leary-Pool/Getty Images

More than a dozen House and Senate Republicans over the weekend attacked plans by colleagues to object to certifying 2020 election results, calling the effort ineffective, dangerous or lacking in evidence.

Why it matters: Although nearly all lawsuits brought by President Trump, his allies and his legal team to challenge election results have been dismissed, a group of Republican senators led by Ted Cruz says they will oppose certifying Joe Biden's win.

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.