How do the most recent Supreme Court rulings affect voting in Pa.?

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Processed mail-in ballots are seen at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa., prior to the primary election, Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Processed mail-in ballots are seen at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa., prior to the primary election, Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the latest of several Republican challenges to Pennsylvania’s voting procedures.

That said, the justices left open a window for further challenges after the election.

Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn spoke with WHYY’s political reporter Katie Meyer about this.

Katie, we’ve been talking, you and I, for a while about a drive in Pennsylvania to allow mail-in ballots to be counted up to three days after polls close on Election Day. Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a state Supreme Court ruling that allows the count extension. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to do that. They did not offer an explanation. Then what happened?

There have been two appeals you mentioned. The first one was just a halt, the deadline extension. And this new one was what they call “on the merits.” So basically asking them, is this a constitutional thing to do? The U.S. Supreme Court denied it. They said it’s too close to the election. We’re not going to invalidate this provision. However, three conservative justices — it was Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch — they put out a statement basically saying where they stood on the issue, and that they think the case has merit. Their reasoning was that the state Supreme Court did something that the legislature had not approved and therefore they think it’s illegitimate. Not everybody would agree. What they said was if there is another appeal after the election, the three of them think that ballots could be invalidated after the fact. So that’s significant. That means that Pennsylvania is going to have to be looking out for, again, another appeal, which I’m sure Republicans will make. I will say only three conservative justices joined on. Amy Coney Barrett was not part of this ruling. And Brett Kavanaugh also did not join them. So, you know, unclear what Coney Barrett would do in another appeal. Unclear if Kavanaugh would, you know, stay out of it.

Now, let’s look at what follows. How are counties going to handle ballots?

So actually, right before the decision was handed down, the secretary of state for Pennsylvania, Kathy Boockvar, gave new guidance to all of the counties and she was sort of anticipating that this decision would happen. She told them that they should, what’s known as ‘segregate’ all of the ballots that come in late. That is after 8:00 p.m. on November 3, Election Day and before 5:00 p.m. on November six, which is the end of the late ballot acceptance window. So all of those late ballots can be counted. And if they’re invalidated, they’re all together and they’re all tracked. They have to log all the information about the ballots. They have to put them in like sealed containers and kind of just leave them alone until we have clarity on this.

Interesting. Let’s talk about delivering mail-in ballots. Some people have received them. Hopefully they have filled them out. If they haven’t sent it in by mail or at a drop box or whatnot, what should they do? What do you recommend?

At this point, we are too close to Election Day for you to be totally sure that your ballot is going to arrive in time if you send it by mail. We’re seeing an uptick in mail delays right now, at least in part because of an influx of ballots. The best advice is to hand in your absentee ballot in person. You can look up locations where you can do that on your county election website. The state also hosts a site where you can look that stuff up. Many counties have satellite election offices or drop boxes set up. But even if your county doesn’t, you can always give them to your county election office and every single county has one of those. The other option, you can present your absentee ballot to your polling place to be spoiled by election workers. And once you do that, you can then just vote by hand normally. So you’ve lost your ballot or for whatever reason, you never get it and you don’t get a replacement. You can always cast a provisional ballot. Those are counted last, but they are a totally legitimate way to vote and they will be counted as long as you’re registered.

Thank you very much. That is all good information. Katie Meyer, our political reporter on WHYY. Always appreciate you guiding us.

Always happy to do it.

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