Deadlocked Supreme Court allows Pennsylvania to extend mail-in ballot deadline

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Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a lower court's ruling to allow Pennsylvania election officials to extend the counting of mail-in ballots three days after the general election, handing the Republican Party a defeat in the crucial swing state.

Due to a deadlock vote by the Supreme Court on Monday, the justices denied the Republican Party of Pennsylvania's request to stop a decision by the state's top court to allow any mail-in ballots postmarked Nov. 3 to be counted if received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said they would have granted the Republican Party's application to intervene. No opinion for either side of the ruling was offered.

Josh Shapiro, the state's attorney general, cheered the ruling in a statement, saying he supports the Supreme Court's decision "not to meddle in our already-working system."

"I say my office would protect your vote -- we did and will continue until every eligible voice is heard in this election," he said.

The ruling follows the Republican Party of Pennsylvania asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the state's Supreme Court decision to allow the deadline for which mail-in ballots can be counted to be extended.

"In a year where there is a very real possibility that the final presidential election result hinges on Pennsylvania, the new rules imposed by the decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (a body elected in partisan elections) could destroy the American public's confidence in the electoral system as a whole," the state's Republican Party said in its request.

The Republicans had argued the rule violates federal law that mandates all elections be held on a single day throughout the country and that the state's Supreme Court decision violates an elections clause in the Constitution concerning who has the authority to set the time, place and manner of federal elections.

The request had followed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruling to allow the three-day extension "in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and alleged delays in mail delivery by the USPS."

The court ruled to not allow the extension would result in "extensive voter disenfranchisement in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution's Free and Equal Elections Clause."

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