With the U.S. Supreme Court bogged down in a 4-4 split late Monday night, a lower court ruling that Pennsylvania can accept postal ballot papers up to three days after polling takes place will stand.
The division of the Supreme Court at the request of the top Republicans in the Senate is considered a victory for the Democrats. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, State Democrats asked local courts to extend ballots while Republicans tried to stop any effort.
All four Conservative judges sided with the Republicans, but Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three Liberal justices to force a tie, which means a lower court ruling in favor of the Democrats stands.
During the June primaries, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order that allowed six counties to count ballots for up to a week after the primaries. A local court granted a similar extension to a seventh county. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar testified in August that the state received more than 100,000 postal ballots – 90% of which were counted on Wolf's orders – following the state primary in June.
The 100,000 votes were more than double the 44,000 votes Trump won for the state in 2016. The late votes are likely to benefit Democrats, as 64% of the state's postal votes come from Democrats, compared with 25% from Republicans.
The ruling also ensures that the state's votes are not counted on election night.
The same issue is still being debated in the Wisconsin court after a federal appeals court blocked a six-day extension granted by a lower court judge in early October. Wisconsin Democrats have appealed to the Supreme Court.
Pennsylvania has voted Democrat in the last six presidential elections before Donald Trump won the state by less than two percentage points in the 2016 election. It is expected that the state will be a highly competitive state again this year. The state has democratic strongholds near Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Center County, where Penn State University is located. However, the rest of the state is full of small towns and rural areas that Republicans usually choose.