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A Small Story About A Short Supreme Court Decision With Big Implications

Chief Justice John Roberts is the deciding vote in upholding leeway for counting votes amid pandemic in Pennsylvania

Eric J Scholl
4 min readOct 20, 2020


If this election is close, Pennsylvania is extremely likely to play a key role. With a high percentage chance it could even be the deciding state this time around.

That’s why this particular Supreme Court ruling is potentially so critical. With only 8 Justices, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett not yet through the Senate, the decision was split evenly 4–4, which means it stands; the attempt to overturn it being denied.

In short: Pennsylvania absentee ballots received up to 3 days after Election Day will still be counted, even if they are not clearly postmarked, unless there’s clear proof the vote was actually cast after Election Day.

More specifically that means, according to the now- upheld decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (p. 37):

[A] three-day extension of the absentee and mail-in ballot received-by deadline to allow for the tabulation of ballots mailed by voters via the USPS and postmarked by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day to reduce voter disenfranchisement resulting from the conflict between the Election Code and the current USPS delivery standards, given the expected number of Pennsylvanians opting to use mail-in ballots during the pandemic.”

And the Pennsylvania High Court adds a footnote regarding ballots that arrive without a postmark or with an illegible postmark, which is also part of what was challenged:

In such cases, we conclude that a ballot received on or before 5:00 p.m. on November 6, 2020, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”

And of course, it should be of benefit to all voters, because it increases the chances every vote legitimately cast will be counted. So why would Republicans not want all absentee ballots to be counted?

It’s certainly not because Pennsylvania is sending out mail-in ballots to all its registered voters…



Eric J Scholl

Peabody award winning journalist. Streaming media pioneer. Played @ CBGB back in the day. Editor-In-Chief "The Chaos Report"