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The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not grant a quick, pre-election review to a new Republican appeal to exclude absentee ballots received after Election Day in the presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania, although it remained unclear whether those ballots will ultimately be counted. The court’s order left open the possibility that the justices could take up and decide after the election whether a three-day extension to receive and count absentee ballots ordered by Pennsylvania’s high court was proper.

The issue would take on enormous importance if Pennsylvania turns out to be the crucial state in next week’s election and the votes received between Nov. 3 and Nov. 6 are potentially decisive. The Supreme Court ruled hours after Pennsylvania’s Department of State agreed to segregate ballots received in the mail after polls close on Tuesday and before 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. President Donald Trump’s campaign suggested that those ballots will never be counted.

“We secured a huge victory when the Pennsylvania Secretary of State saw the writing on the wall and voluntarily complied with our injunction request, segregating ballots received after the Nov. 3 deadline to ensure they will not be counted until the Supreme Court rules on our petition,” Justin Clark, a deputy campaign manager, said in an interview. The court, Clark said, deferred “the most important issue in the case, which is whether state courts can change the time, place and manner of elections, contrary to the rules adopted by the Legislature.”

Pennsylvania’s Department of State could not immediately say Wednesday night whether it would revise its guidance to the counties about whether to count those ballots. The Alliance for Retired Americans, which had sued in Pennsylvania state courts for an extended deadline, said the ruling means that ballots arriving during the three-day period after Election Day will be counted. “This is an enormous victory for all Pennsylvania voters, especially seniors who should not have to put their health at risk during the pandemic in order to cast a ballot that will be counted,” Richard Fiesta, the alliance’s executive director, said in a statement.

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the vote “because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for three justices, indicated he would support the high court’s eventual review of the issue. But, he wrote, “I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election.” Last week, the justices divided 4-4, a tie vote that allowed the three-day extension ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remain in effect.



The Supreme Court will allow absentee ballots in North Carolina to be received and counted up to nine days after Election Day. The justices, by a 5-3 vote Wednesday, refused to disturb a decision by the State Board of Elections to lengthen the period from three to nine days because of the coronavirus pandemic, pushing back the deadline to Nov. 12. The board’s decision was part of a legal settlement with a union-affiliated group.

Republicans had asked the high court to step in. Under the Supreme Court’s order, mailed ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 in order to be counted.  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices in the majority. Three conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, dissented. New Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the case “because of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat whose office defended the deadline extension in court, hailed the high court’s decision in a statement. “North Carolina voters had a huge win tonight at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court upheld the State Board of Elections’ effort to ensure that every eligible vote counts, even during a pandemic,” he said. “Voters must have their mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, but now we all have certainty that every eligible vote will be counted. Let’s vote!”

Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger said the high court’s order will undermine public confidence in government. “The question is simple: May unelected bureaucrats on a state panel controlled by one political party overrule election laws passed by legislatures, even after ballots have already been cast? If public confidence in elections is important to our system of government, then hopefully the answer to that question is no,” Berger said in a statement.

State and national Republican groups, including President Donald Trump’s campaign, had filed separate but similar appeals asking the high court to make the state revert to a Nov. 6 deadline for accepting late-arriving ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. That three-day timeframe was specified in state law.

The appeals, including one led by the state’s Republican legislative leaders, argued that the deadline change put in place by the State Board of Elections usurped legislators’ constitutional authority to set rules for elections. They also said the change made after early voting started would create unequal treatment of voters who had cast ballots under previous, stricter rules.

The State Board of Elections had lengthened the period as part of a late September legal settlement with the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-affiliated group represented by Marc Elias, a lawyer prominent in Democratic circles.

The legal settlement, which also loosened requirements for fixing absentee ballots that lacked a witness signature, was approved by a state judge. The settlement said counties should have longer to accept ballots because of possible mail delays.



Amy Coney Barrett was formally sworn in Tuesday as the Supreme Court's ninth justice, her oath administered in private by Chief Justice John Roberts. Her first votes on the court could include two big topics affecting the man who appointed her.

The court is weighing a plea from President Donald Trump to prevent the Manhattan district attorney from acquiring his tax returns. It is also considering appeals from the Trump campaign and Republicans to shorten the deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Northeastern Pennsylvania's Luzerne County filed legal papers at the court Tuesday arguing that Barrett should not take part in the Pennsylvania case. It's not clear if she will vote in the pending cases, but she will make that call.

Barrett was confirmed Monday by the Senate in a 52-48 virtual party line vote. She is expected to begin work as a justice on Tuesday after taking the second of two oaths required of judges by federal law. No justice has assumed office so close to a presidential election or immediately confronted issues so directly tied to the incumbent president's political and personal fortunes.

Barrett declined to commit to Democratic demands that she step aside from any cases on controversial topics, including a potential post-election dispute over the presidential results.

At 48, she's the youngest justice since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991 at age 43. Other election-related issues are pending at the high court, which next week also will hear a clash of LGBTQ rights and religious freedoms. The fate of the Affordable Care Act is on the agenda on Nov. 10, and Trump himself last week reiterated his opposition to the Obama-era law. “I hope they end it,” he said in an interview with CBS News' “60 Minutes.”

On Friday, Barrett, the most open opponent of abortion rights to join the court in decades, also could be called upon to weigh in on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. The state is appealing lower court rulings invalidating the ban. Abortion opponents in Pittsburgh also are challenging a so-called bubble zone that prevents protesters from getting too close to abortion clinics.

The court put off acting on both cases before Barrett joined the court, without offering any explanation in the Mississippi case. It ordered Pittsburgh to file a response to the appeal filed by the protesters, who call themselves sidewalk counselors.

It's not clear that the public will know how Barrett voted in the two abortion cases because the court typically doesn't make the vote counts public when it is considering whether to grant full review to cases.



The Supreme Court is siding with Republicans to prevent Wisconsin from counting mailed ballots that are received after Election Day.

In a 5-3 order, the justices on Monday refused to reinstate a lower court order that called for mailed ballots to be counted if they are received up to six days after the Nov. 3 election. A federal appeals court had already put that order on hold.

The three liberal justices dissented from the order that the court issued just before the Senate started voting on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.

Chief Justice John Roberts last week joined the liberals to preserve a Pennsylvania state court order extending the absentee ballot deadline but voted the other way in the Wisconsin case, which has moved through federal courts.

“Different bodies of law and different precedents govern these two situations and require, in these particular circumstances, that we allow the modification of election rules in Pennsylvania but not Wisconsin,” Roberts wrote.

Democrats argued that the flood of absentee ballots and other challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic makes it necessary to extend the period in which ballots can be counted. Wisconsin is one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, with hospitals treating a record high number of patients with the disease.

Republicans opposed the extension, saying that voters have plenty of opportunities to cast their ballots by the close of polls on Election Day and that the rules should not be changed so close to the election.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler responded to the ruling by pledging Democrats would be “dialing up a huge voter education campaign” to prod roughly 360,000 people who hadn’t yet returned absentee ballots to hand-deliver them by 8 p.m. on Election Day, or to vote in person.

State Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt praised the ruling.

“Absentee voting in Wisconsin is extremely easy and hundreds of thousands of people have done it already — last-minute attempts to change election laws only cause more voter confusion and erode the integrity of our elections,” he said in a statement.

The justices often say nothing, or very little, about the reasons for their votes in these emergency cases, but on Monday, four justices wrote opinions totaling 35 pages to lay out their competing rationales.


A divided Senate is set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, giving the country a ninth justice Monday as Republicans overpower Democratic opposition to secure President Donald Trump’s nominee the week before Election Day.

Democratic leaders asked Vice President Mike Pence to stay away from presiding over her Senate confirmation due to potential health risks after his aides tested positive for COVID-19. But although Pence isn’t needed to break a tie, the vote would present a dramatic opportunity for him to preside over confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court justice.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team wrote that not only would Pence’s presence violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, “it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy.”

But Senate Republicans control the chamber and Barrett’s confirmation isn’t in doubt.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scoffed at the “apocalyptic” warnings from critics that the judicial branch was becoming mired in partisan politics as he defended its transformation under his watch.

“This is something to be really proud of and feel good about,” the Republican leader said Sunday during a rare weekend session.

McConnell said that unlike legislative actions that can be undone by new presidents or lawmakers, “they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

Schumer, of New York, said the Trump administration’s drive to install Barrett during the coronavirus crisis shows “the Republican Party is willing to ignore the pandemic in order to rush this nominee forward.”

To underscore the potential health risks, Schumer urged his colleagues Sunday not to linger in the chamber but “cast your votes quickly and from a safe distance.” Some GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus following a Rose Garden event with Trump to announce Barrett’s nomination, but they have since said they have been cleared by their doctors from quarantine. Pence’s office said the vice president tested negative for the virus on Monday.

The confirmation was expected to be the first of a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election. It’s also one of the first high court nominees in recent memory receiving no support from the minority party, a pivot from not long ago when a president’s picks often won wide support.



Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett won crucial backing Saturday when one of the last Republican holdouts against filling the seat during an election season announced support for President Donald Trump’s pick ahead of a confirmation vote expected Monday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, declared her support during a rare weekend Senate session as Republicans race to confirm Barrett before Election Day. Senators are set Sunday to push ahead, despite Democratic objections that the winner of the White House on Nov. 3 should make the choice to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett’s nomination  already appeared to have enough votes for confirmation from Senate Republicans who hold the majority in the chamber. But Murkowski’s nod gives her a boost of support. Only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, is now expected to vote against the conservative judge.

“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” Murkowski said. The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in U.S. history so close to a presidential election. Calling it a “sham,” Democrats mounted procedural hurdles to slow it down. But the minority party has no realistic chance of stopping Barrett’s confirmation, which is set to lock a 6-3 conservative court majority for years to come.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted the political rancor, but defended his handling of the process. “Our recent debates have been heated, but curiously talk of Judge Barrett’s actual credentials or qualifications are hardly featured,” McConnell said. He called her one of the most “impressive” nominees for public office “in a generation.” Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York warned Republicans the only way to remove the “stain” of their action would be to “withdraw the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett until after the election.”

With the nation experiencing a surge of COVID-19  cases, Democrats made several unsuccessful attempts to force the Senate to set aside the judicial fight Saturday and instead consider coronavirus relief legislation, including the House-passed Heroes Act that would pump money into schools, hospitals and jobless benefits and provide other aid.  Majority Republicans turned aside those efforts and kept Barrett’s confirmation on track.


The US Senate is gearing up for a rare weekend session as Republicans race to put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court and cement a conservative majority before election day despite Democratic efforts to stall President Donald Trump’s nominee.

Democrats used time-consuming procedural hurdles to delay the start of Friday’s Senate session until midday, but the party has no realistic chance of stopping Ms Barrett’s advance in the Republican-controlled chamber. Ms Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, is expected to be confirmed on Monday and quickly join the court.

“It’s hard to think of any nominee we’ve had in the past who is any better than this one,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, told Fox News late on Thursday.

Ms Barrett, 48, presented herself in public evidence before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter of cases on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and presidential power, issues soon confronting the court.

At one point she suggested: “It’s not the law of Amy.”  But Ms Barrett’s past writings against abortion and a ruling on the Obama-era health care law show a deeply conservative thinker.

Mr Trump said this week he is hopeful the Supreme Court will undo the health law when the justices take up a challenge on November 10, the week after the election. The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in US history so close to a presidential election.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Friday that the Republican push to seat Ms Barrett was “the most partisan, hypocritical, least legitimate process in the history of the nation”. “We’re not going to have business as usual,” Mr Schumer said as he forced one procedural vote after another.

At the start of Mr Trump’s presidency, Mr McConnell engineered a Senate rules change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the 60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over objections.

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