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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Protesters outside Supreme Court. Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Pennsylvania's Republican Party to shorten the deadlines for mail-in ballots in the state. Thanks to the court's 4-4 deadlock, ballots can be counted for several days after Election Day.

Why it matters: It's a major win for Democrats that could decide the fate of thousands of ballots in a crucial swing state that President Trump won in 2016. The court's decision may signal how it would deal with similar election-related litigation in other states.

The state of play: A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision moved the deadline for absentee ballots to be counted from 8 p.m. on Election Day to 5 p.m. the following Friday, Nov. 6. If the U.S. Supreme Court had granted a stay, it would have resulted in a return to the original deadline.

The big picture: The deadlock underscores the importance for Republicans of confirming Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who the president himself has said could be a deciding vote in an election-related dispute.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts joined liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in denying the application.
  • Conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the application.
  • When the court is deadlocked, the decision from the lower court remains in place without setting a precedent for future cases.

What they're saying: Republican National Committee national press secretary Mandi Merritt said in a statement, "We are disappointed that the court declined to confront the important issues raised in our motion. The Constitution delegates these issues to elected state legislatures rather than judges for a reason."

  • Marc Elias, a top Democratic elections lawyer, said in a statement, "This is what we mean when we say Democracy is on the Docket."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with reaction to the ruling.

Go deeper

The next big political war: redistricting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are preparing a mix of tech and legal strategies to combat expected gerrymandering by Republicans, who are planning to go on legal offense themselves.

Why it matters: Democrats failed to regain a single state legislature on Election Day, while Republicans upped their control to 30 states' Houses and Senates. In the majority of states, legislatures draw new congressional district lines, which can boost a party's candidates for the next decade.

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities tied to Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

2 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

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