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Breaking: U.S. Supreme Court rejects GOP appeal of absentee ballot extension

Stacks of boxes holding mail are seen at a U.S. Post Office sorting center. Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

In a victory for voting rights groups and the state State Board of Elections and a defeat Republican legislative leaders, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled tonight that a court settlement that allowed the state to continue to receive absentee ballots until Nov. 12 will stand.

The high court’s ruling, which came in the case of Moore v. Circosta, featured a 5-3 vote in which Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justices Kavanaugh, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan in upholding a Fourth Circuit decision from earlier this week. Justices Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas dissented. Justice Barrett did not participate.

The ruling denying the GOP request to enjoin the lower court ruling did not feature a written explanation, though Justice Gorsuch authored a three-plus page dissent for himself and Justice Alito, in which he approvingly cited the argument of GOP lawmakers that it was improper for the State Board of Elections to extend the deadline six days beyond the General Assembly’s designated date of Nov. 6.

The ruling means North Carolinians whose absentee ballots are properly completed, postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 12 will be counted.

According to Raleigh’s News & Observer, “more than 1.45 million voters requested absentee by-mail ballots and more than half (over 819,363) had returned them as of Wednesday morning.”

Not everyone who requested an absentee ballot must vote that way. Many voters have been exercising their option to discard the absentee ballot and vote in person — either at an early voting site or at their regular polling place next Tuesday. Early voting will conclude this coming Saturday at 3:00 p.m.

Earlier today, the Court also rejected a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to expedite consideration of their request to shut off counting ballots on Nov. 3. The ruling, for now allows the state to continue counting ballots received through Nov. 6, but the Court could still take action to approve the GOP request and the state will segregate ballots received after Nov. 3 to be on the safe side. The Court previously approved an effort by the GOP to halt counting on Election Day in Wisconsin.

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