Supreme Court Declines to Hear Pennsylvania Election Case, Leaving Later Mail Ballot Deadline Intact

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HARRISBURG – Late on Monday, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging Pennsylvania’s extended deadline for counties to receive mail and absentee ballots, turning back an appeal by the state Republican party.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania determined that extending the deadline for ballots to arrive at county election offices was necessary because of delays in the arrival of mail and the increased use of vote-by-mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to meet the state constitution’s mandate for “free and equal” elections.

Mail and absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 3, which is Election Day, and received by the counties’ election offices by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6.

Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Make the Road Pennsylvania, and three individual voters filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm WilmerHale. Several of those organizations responded to the ruling on Monday evening.

The following can be attributed to Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania: “Our democracy is stronger when every vote – whether it is cast in person or by mail – is counted. Today’s decision is a win for voters and for our democracy. But it’s important to know that by extending the deadline to receive voted mail-in ballots, we will need to be even more patient in waiting for the results. It’s important that every single vote is counted as long as it is received by the deadline.”

The following can be attributed to Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “Once again, the courts have rejected the Trump campaign’s attempt to suppress the vote. Democracy is stronger for it.”

The following can be attributed to Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania: “We are pleased with the court’s ruling today that protects voter confidence in mail voting in Pennsylvania. A vote cast on Election Day should count no matter how it is cast. Voters cannot predict or control when their mailed ballots will arrive at their election office. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure there are safe options for voters to return their ballots and know they are counted. We are pleased that today’s decision affirms once and for all that ballots postmarked by Election Day must be counted.”

The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania: “This case has always been about assuring that every vote counts, no matter who people vote for. No eligible voter should be denied their right to vote because of circumstances out of their control. And a deadly, once-in-a-century pandemic and delays in mail delivery are out of their control. We are grateful that the rights of voters prevailed in this case.”

The following can be attributed to Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: “From the beginning, we have contended that American voters face too many barriers when they seek to vote during this election cycle. Extending Pennsylvania’s ballot deadline will be one of the most significant and essential tools to ensure that the state’s voters can participate in this meaningful election despite the threat of COVID-19. And the ruling is a reminder that it should never be this difficult to vote in our democracy, especially during a pandemic.”


Read the order here.