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After Supreme Court Guts Expansion of Mail-In Voting in Wisconsin, Fears Grow of Similar Rulings in Pennsylvania and North Carolina

Republicans and the Trump campaign are hoping the Supreme Court will reject efforts to extend the deadline for receiving absentee ballots.

 voter puts a ballot in a ballot box on June 9, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A voter puts a ballot in a ballot box on June 9, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court, which now includes right-wing Justice Amy Coney Barrett, will soon weigh in on Republican Party efforts to narrow the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots in the key battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, allegations of widespread voter suppression, concerns about mail delays, and fears President Donald Trump will foment Election Night chaos. 

On Monday, the same day the Senate confirmed 48-year-old Coney Barrett and strengthened the court's conservative majority, the Supreme Court barred the state of Wisconsin from extending its Election Day deadline for the arrival of absentee ballots. In a 5-3 decision, the court rejected a bid by Wisconsin Democrats and voting rights groups to allow mail-in ballots to be counted if postmarked by Election Day and received by November 9. Instead, the court sided with Republicans to keep the current deadline which means that only mail-in ballots that arrive by 8:00 pm on Election Day will be counted.

That decision looms large as voting rights advocates eye expected decisions from the court regarding ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania Republicans last week made a second request to stop a mail-in ballot deadline extension. According to CNN:

In Pennsylvania, a state critical to President Donald Trump's path to victory, the state Republican Party asked the high court last week to reconsider whether the state should count ballots received within three days of Election Day, even if they do not have a legible postmark. The court issued a 4-4 ruling earlier this month denying the GOP challenge and leaving in place a lower-court ruling allowing the ballot receipt extension to stand. Now Republicans want the court to decide the case in an expedited fashion.

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If their effort is successful, The Hill reported, the Republicans' "long-shot bid could disenfranchise a number of mail-in voters, with the harm likely to fall disproportionately on Biden supporters, who are considered about twice as likely as Trump backers to vote by mail."

The Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Board of Elections, in a filing Tuesday submitted by respondents including Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, called for Barrett to recuse herself from the Pennsylvania case, saying the justice's "impartiality might reasonably be questioned given the circumstances of her nomination and confirmation."

In North Carolina—a state upon which the president's "reelection hopes could hinge"—state election officials extended from Nov. 6 to Nov. 12 the deadline for ballots to be counted that are postmarked by Election Day. The Trump campaign asked the top court to block the extended deadline after the state GOP failed in its effort to do so at a federal appeals court. 

Pointing to the Pennsylvania case, Scott Lemieux, a lecturer in the political science department at the University of Washington and co-author of "Judicial Review and Democratic Theory," opined that it could "directly aid in the president's re-election efforts."

"But even if the Supreme Court ultimately does not intervene in Pennsylvania," Lemieux wrote in his NBC News op-ed, "Barrett's elevation will consolidate control of the court by judges who are not just remarkably hostile to voting rights, but who have also increasingly held that a state's interest in preventing a small number of fraudulent ballots from being cast—none of which have been shown to affect a race—trumps Americans' broad access to the franchise."

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