Politics Understanding the Split High Court Decisions on Mail Ballots
Fact check: False claim that photo of discarded mail shows ballots cast for Trump
A photo of a dozen boxes of mail discarded on the side of the road is from 2018, when President Donald Trump wasn't even on the ballot."Boy oh boy, there finding thrown away Trump ballets (sic) everywhere now, California, Texas, n Pennsylvania," Kimberly C. Lecroy wrote on Facebook alongside the image.
(Bloomberg) -- A dizzying array of U.S. Supreme Court orders and opinions over the past 10 days has left the rules governing next week’s presidential election in flux.
In rapid succession, the court has allowed extra time for mail-in ballots to arrive in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but rejected calls for a similar extension in Wisconsin. Along the way, some conservative justices have signaled they would invalidate late-arriving ballots after the election-- and potentially help Republican President Donald Trump defeat Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump casts a 'very secure vote' for himself in Florida: 2020 election updates
"I voted for a guy named Trump," the president said.Trump cast his ballot at the West Palm Beach library near his private Mar-a-Lago club. The president told reporters after leaving the library it was "an honor" to be voting and that he cast a "very secure vote.
And the newly-arrived justice who could be the key to it all -- Trump-appointed Amy Coney Barrett -- has stayed conspicuously silent amid calls for her to recuse herself from election cases.
Here’s what we know, what we don’t know, and what we will be looking for in the coming days and weeks:
Where do things stand in those states?
As of now, ballots must arrive by Election Day in Wisconsin, by Nov. 6 in Pennsylvania, and by Nov. 12 in North Carolina. In all cases they need to be mailed by Election Day.
But things could change, particularly in Pennsylvania, where there’s no guarantee that ballots will be counted if they arrive after Election Day. State officials have told counties to separate out late-arriving ballots. And in a Supreme Court opinion on Wednesday night, three conservative justicesthe possibility those ballots could be invalidated after the fact.
The week in polls: Trump gains in 9 of 12 swing states, but Biden still leads in 10 of them
With just eight days to go to Election Day, both national polls and swing state surveys make it clear the race between Trump and Biden is tightening.President Donald Trump gained on his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national polling averages, and in nine of 12 contested states. But Biden still holds a sizable lead in the national polls and is still ahead of Trump in 10 of the 12 states that could decide the election.
Why are these cases coming out differently?
It’s not totally clear. The court as a whole didn’t give any reasons for the four major orders it has issued -- or even say explicitly who was in the majority. All we know is what can be pieced together from opinions written by individual justices.
One factor is that Chief Justice John Roberts hashe is more willing to let state courts extend statutory deadlines than federal courts. That explains why he voted to allow the Pennsylvania extension, ordered by that state’s top court, but to block the Wisconsin one, which was ordered by a federal district judge.
Are there more cases pending?
Yes. The court still has a pending appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans challenging the acceptance of late-filed ballots there. The court on Wednesday said it wouldn’t expedite that appeal for resolution before the election.
But in an opinion for three conservatives, Justice Samuel Alito raised the prospect of accepting the GOP appeal and hearing the case later, perhaps shortly after the election. The bid for review “remains before us, and if it is granted, the case can then be decided under a shortened schedule,” he.
How long it could take to count the vote this year, explained
Some swing states are expected to tally results relatively quickly. Others not so much.The pandemic and historic levels of mail-in voting mean that we have reason to expect that certain states will be very, very slow to count their votes this year — while others will be at least relatively quicker.
The court cleared up a loose end on Thursday when it turned down a third Republican bid to block the North Carolina extension, aftertwo requests Wednesday night.
In the lower courts, Republicans arean extension in Minnesota and pressing a challenge on different legal grounds to the extra time in Pennsylvania. Fights on other issues are percolating in Arizona, Texas, Michigan and Nevada.
What’s Barrett’s position?
We don’t know yet. Barrett, who was confirmed by the Senate on Monday, didn’t take part in the court’s two orders on Wednesday night. In an unusual move, she explained through a court spokeswoman who cited “the need for a prompt resolution” and said Barrett “has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”
Democrats have called on Barrett to recuse herself from election cases because of Trump’s repeated suggestions that he’s counting on her vote should the election outcome ride on a Supreme Court decision. A county board of elections filed, but then withdrew, a motion for her to recuse in Pennsylvania case.
Hillary Clinton joins Electoral College 4 years after it cost her the presidency: 'Pretty sure I'll get to vote for Joe'
Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, is one of 29 Democratic electors for New York state in 2020.The Electoral College is comprised of 538 delegates: People who cast the votes that formally elect the president. It's a system that tends to give smaller states a larger voice in the process of electing the president, and one that Clinton has publicly opposed in the past.
What about Kavanaugh?
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another Trump nominee, took a strongMonday night with an opinion in the Wisconsin case. He suggested sympathy for Trump’s unsubstantiated contentions that late-arriving votes would be tainted by fraud, warning of “the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.”
That brought a counter from Justice Elena Kagan, who said “there are no results to ‘flip’ until all votes are counted.”
Kavanaugh also said the Supreme Court can intervene in a presidential election dispute even when a state court is interpreting its own laws, endorsing an opinion by three conservative justices in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.
But on Wednesday, Kavanaugh was silent when the court allowed the North Carolina extension, which had been ordered by a state elections board. He didn’t join three conservatives who publicly disagreed with the outcome, but he also didn’t say he was in the majority.
The bottom line is that Kavanaugh has strongly suggested he would intervene on Trump’s side after the election in at least some circumstances. But it’s unclear just how far he would go -- for example, whether he would invalidate ballots submitted by voters who relied on an extended deadline.
Many people in jail are eligible to vote. But casting a ballot behind bars isn't easy
Hundreds of thousands of people are detained at local jails across the U.S. While most are eligible to vote, many face 'de facto' disenfranchisement.Greene, who's awaiting trial on burglary charges, is one of the more than 600 voters in New York City's Department of Correction custody who registered to vote this year.
How important is all this?
The sheer numbers mean the deadline issue could decide a close election, particularly if everything comes down to a single state such as Pennsylvania. Democrats have been pushing to extend deadlines with the expectation that mail-in ballots will favor Biden because a disproportionate number of Democrats are requesting and returning them.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats account for 63% of the 3.1 million ballots requested and Republicans 25%, according to data from the Department of State. Of the 2.1 million ballots returned as of Thursday, 68% are from Democrats and 22% from Republicans, data show.
But there are still almost 985,000 ballots still to be returned in Pennsylvania, and Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, both Democrats, are telling voters to drop off their ballots in person immediately to avoid any risk they’ll arrive late in the mail, and won’t be counted.
About 2.6 million mail ballots have yet to be returned in four swing states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which that tracks early voting.
What are the deadlines elsewhere?
As of now, 28 states, including Wisconsin, require mail ballots to be received on or before Election Day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty-two, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina, accept ballots after Nov. 3 if they are postmarked by Election Day.
In most swing states, ballots must be received by Election Day. That includes Florida, where mailed ballots must be received by the time polls close Nov. 3 and are to be counted that evening. An exception is Ohio, which counts ballots received up to 10 days after the election as long as they’re postmarked by Nov. 2.
(Updates section on pending cases to reflect new Supreme Court order Thursday.)
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Polling averages show Trump gaining on Biden in most swing states. Will it be enough? .
Trump gained on Biden in polling average in 9 of 12 swing states since Monday, continuing last week's trend. But of those, he is only ahead in Texas.The deadline for early voting ends Friday in several states where the race is tight, including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Texas – and on Saturday in the key states of Florida and North Carolina. Though early turnout appears to favor Democrats in many states, Republicans are gaining ground quickly in Florida and other early voting states.