As you were—that’s the order the Supreme Court gave to Pennsylvania Friday night amid the Trump campaign’s legal challenges to vote-counting there.
Justice Samuel Alito, a leader of the highest bench’s conservative faction, issued an order in response to an afternoon request from Pennsylvania Republicans that left the situation in the Keystone State virtually unchanged: with ballots that arrived after 8 p.m. on Election Day getting set aside, but still counted so long as they are postmarked by Tuesday or have no postmark at all. This was the exact guidance that Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar had already given the county authorities responsible for handling the postal votes, and Alito’s directive simply made these directives legally binding.
“All county boards of election are hereby ordered, pending further order of the Court, to comply with the following guidance provided by the Secretary of the Commonwealth,” the order reads, directing the localities to keep the ballots in a sealed container and “that all such ballots, if counted, be counted separately.”
Alito acceded to GOP arguments that the state could not prove all counties everywhere in the state had followed Boockvar’s instruction. But the court declined to grant the request that the state “log, to segregate, and otherwise not to take any action related to mail-in or civilian absentee ballots,” which could have stopped the process.
Biden already has a thousands-strong lead in ballots that arrived on-time, and it is unclear whether the late postal votes will have any impact on the outcome of the race. Alito’s decree leaves the situation virtually unchanged from the end of October, when the court declined to stop the state from accepting ballots with no or an on-time postmark through Friday.
A wave of new lawsuits began in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, as GOP candidates sought to stop counties from allowing absentee voters to correct or “cure” their errors. One of these suits failed in federal court, and managed only to get a directive from a state judge to double-check provisional ballots cast by those who screwed up their remote vote for compliance. The campaign had only short-lived success in trying to override COVID-19 guidance that kept its observers 25 feet away from counters in Philadelphia, as an appeal to the state Supreme Court stayed a victory granted by a lower judge—and the ballot-tallying continued.
A similar suit got thrown out in Michigan, as did a bizarre effort in Georgia involving a stack of 53 ballots in Savannah. Veteran Republican legal experts dismissed these cases as “garbage” and “absurd” in comments to The Daily Beast.
Also on Friday, Republicans in Nevada dropped a lawsuit against Clark County—home of Las Vegas—over ballot-counting procedure in exchange for getting more observers in the room, while a federal judge denied a request to halt tabulation on similar grounds.
Sources told The Daily Beast earlier this week that President Donald Trump has ordered his team to “go down fighting,” and he and his proxies have ratcheted up baseless allegations of mass voter fraud, even as the legal briefs dwell on quibbling matters such as how close his campaign operatives can stand to election workers and video footage of dropboxes. He has repeatedly signaled that he hopes the matter arrives before the Supreme Court’s new six-to-three conservative majority, even as it seems increasingly unlikely any decision they would or could make might influence the outcome.