Democrats Urge Supreme Court to Defer Acting in Ballot Case


Democrats urged the U.S. Supreme Court to stay its hand in a pending clash over late-arriving Pennsylvania ballots, saying those votes may not matter in the presidential election.

In a court filing on Thursday, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party said it didn’t object to President Donald Trump’s participation in the case. But with Democrat Joe Biden potentially closing in on victory, the party urged the court to hold off acting on Trump’s request to take part.

Republicans are seeking to block an unspecified number of ballots that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said would count as long as they were mailed by Election Day and arrive by Friday.

“No reason exists to assume that the number of ballots received in that window would be large enough to be decisive in the races for president and House of Representatives,” the Democratic Party argued.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, took a different stance, urging the court to reject Trump’s bid to participate. Trump filed the request to intervene on Wednesday.

The state’s top elections official, Democratic Secretary Kathy Boockvar, told reporters on Thursday that only a small
number of ballots have arrived since Election Day. She said the
final figure would probably be a small fraction of the 60,000
ballots received in the three days after the Pennsylvania’s primary election in June.

“It’s not going to be anywhere near that,” Boockvar said.

In a separate case, Trump’s campaign won a court order Thursday requiring Pennsylvania to segregate mail-in ballots from voters who were asked to provide missing proof of identification during an extended period for allowing such fixes.

In a third case, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon in federal court seeking to halt the Philadelphia County Board of Elections’ count of votes. The complaint includes a request for an emergency injunction and is similar to one the campaign made in a different Pennsylvania court that briefly halted the count Thursday morning.

The Supreme Court previously left the Pennsylvania ballot-receipt extension in place with a 4-4 vote, and Republicans are seeking to reverse that outcome now that Trump-appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett is on the court.

The Supreme Court on Oct. 28 refused to fast-track the case for a decision before Election Day but left open the possibility of taking it up later.

‘Under a Cloud’

In a statement that accompanied the Oct. 28 order, three conservative justices lamented that voting would be “conducted under a cloud.”

Pennsylvania officials say they’re segregating the late-arriving ballots. That step would make it feasible for the Supreme Court to declare those votes invalid. The case doesn’t involve ballots that arrived by Election Day and are still being counted.

Pennsylvania law says ballots must be received by Election Day, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline because of the pandemic and expected mail delays. The court based the extension on a state constitutional clause that guarantees a “free and equal” election.

Republicans contend the state court violated a U.S. constitutional provision that says state legislatures get to set the rules for the presidential election.

The lead Supreme Court case is Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, 20-542.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.