Pennsylvania extends mail-in ballot count deadline past election day

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday the state can count mail-in ballots until 5 p.m. on November 6 — three days after the Nov. 3rd election, so long as the ballot was mailed before Election Day.

The court also is allowing mail-in ballots to be deposited in drop boxes set up at satellite offices by the county bureaus of elections.

The president’s campaign sought to intervene in the lawsuit, arguing the ballots must be in by election night. The campaign has also raised issues with ballots having been dropped off at shopping malls during the state’s primary earlier this year — creating election integrity issues.

The legal battle was originally filed in October of 2019 after the state had enacted a law allowing all registered voters to have the option to vote by mail.

Democratic lawmakers and the state’s Democratic Party had initially launched the lawsuit to clarify aspects of the new state law.

“We have no hesitation in concluding that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic equates to a natural disaster,” wrote Judge Max Baer, a Democrat elected to the state’s high court in 2003, for the court’s majority.

“Moreover, the effects of the pandemic threatened the disenfranchisement of thousands of Pennsylvanians during the 2020 Primary, when several of the Commonwealth’s county election boards struggled to process the flow of mail-in ballot applications for voters who sought to avoid exposure to the virus,” the judge added.

Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, said the state’s high court ignored the law when issuing its decision, which he says is based on politics.

“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 PM on Election Day in order to be counted,” Mr. 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,” he added.

President Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 0.71% or 44,292 votes. It was one of three critical swing states that was decided by less than 1%.

Meanwhile, liberal groups cheered the court’s decision.

“Ballot drop boxes and extended return dates are both important parts of safely administering this election, because they give voters more opportunities to return their mail ballots,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.

“Our commonwealth is stronger when every eligible voter can participate in an accessible, safe, and secure election. Today’s Supreme Court decision will help ensure Pennsylvania voters can vote the way they want to, and have their voices heard, in November,” she added.

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