The US Supreme Court Friday ordered Pennsylvania election boards to segregate mail-in ballots arriving after 8:00 PM on November 3rd. Segregated ballots must be kept “in a secure, safe and sealed container separate from other voted ballots,” and “all such ballots, if counted, be counted separately.”
The order provides that election boards must count mail ballots separately from the overall tally, making it possible for the Court to exclude these ballots in later rulings. In his order, Justice Samuel Alito notes that neither the applicant nor the Secretary has been able to verify that all boards are complying with the Secretary’s guidance which is “not legally binding” on the boards. Of the 67 county election boards, 25 have not confirmed whether they will follow the Secretary’s guidance to segregate mail-in ballots from the overall tally. All responses are due by 2:00 PM Saturday.
Justice Alito’s order comes hours after the Republican Party of Pennsylvania (RPP) filed an emergency request earlier on Friday to separate and stop counting absentee ballots received after Election Day. Republicans argued that a court order would ensure that all election boards followed Secretary of Pennsylvania Kathy Boockvar’s guidance on ballot segregation published on October 28, 2020. The Court granted RPP’s request, reasoning that “no party [would] be harmed if [the] Court were to grant the requested relief,” and that separately counting the votes “preserves the ability of this Court to render a meaningful judgment on the validity of those ballots.”
Though it is unclear whether a subsequent Court order will exclude mail-in ballots from the overall state total, election boards currently reserve the right not to segregate votes.