Politics

GOP asks Supreme Court to halt count of Pennsylvania ballots received after Election Day as Biden takes lead

Key Points
  • The Republican Party of Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt an ongoing count of mail-in ballots received in that state after Election Day.
  • The move came hours after Democratic nominee Joe Biden overtook President Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, in the vote tally there.
  • Pennsylvania's Supreme Court had extended the mail-in ballot receipt deadline from Election Day evening to late Friday afternoon. The state GOP is trying to get that extension overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered Pennsylvania's county elections boards to segregate all ballots received by mail after 8 p.m. Tuesday and to count them separately from other ballots. He deferred the question of halting the count of those ballots.
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, November 5, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to halt an ongoing count of mail-in ballots received in that state after Election Day, a move that came hours after Democratic nominee Joe Biden overtook President Donald Trump in the vote tally there.

The party also asked the Supreme Court to order the Pennsylvania secretary of state to log and segregate those ballots, but to take no other action, including counting them, for now.

The GOP already was seeking to overturn an order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that extended the normal 8 p.m. ET Election Day deadline to 5 p.m. on Friday.

Hours later Friday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered Pennsylvania's county elections boards to segregate all ballots received by mail after 8 p.m. Tuesday and to count them separately from other ballots.

Alito's order essentially mandates guidance issued in the past two weeks by state Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to the counties calling for them to segregate the ballots received after Election Day.

But Alito did not grant, for now, the request to halt the ongoing counting of the later ballots.

Instead, he referred that question to a conference with his fellow court justices and directed that any response by the state be filed by 2 p.m. Saturday.

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The party wants the ballots received after Election Day kept separate and not counted so that they can be invalidated as a group if its broader effort at the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the deadline extension is successful.

It is not clear how many mail-in ballots received after Election Day are among the tens of thousands of total mail-in ballots that have yet to be counted in the state.

But Boockvar on Thursday told CNN that she did not believe that the ballots received during the deadline extension period would affect the outcome of the presidential race "unless it's super close."

Boockvar said that the largest counties in the state received only around 500 ballots each after Election Day, while some smaller counties did not receive any.

As of midafternoon Friday, Biden was leading Trump by more than 27,000 votes. The former vice president had 3.33 million votes compared to 3.3 million for the incumbent president, an edge of 49.6% to 49.2% as of Friday evening. About 4% of the expected total vote remained to be counted.

There are 20 Electoral College votes at stake in Pennsylvania.

If Biden, who currently has won a projected 253 electoral votes from other states, wins the popular vote in Pennsylvania, he would be projected as the winner in the race for the White House, according to NBC News' current analysis.

A candidate must win at least 270 votes in the Electoral College to be elected president.

Trump had been leading Biden in Pennsylvania's ongoing ballot count until Friday morning, when Biden pulled ahead of the Republican president because of his strong performance in a count of mail-in ballots.

Biden was outpacing Trump in both Democratic- and Republican-leaning counties' counts of mail-in ballots, and his lead increased over the course of the day.

"Given the results of the November 3, 2020 general election, the vote in Pennsylvania may well determine the next President of the United States — and it is currently unclear whether all 67 county boards of elections are segregating late-arriving ballot," the state GOP said in its filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Thus, without an immediate order from this Court, [the party] could lose its right to 'a targeted remedy' "if the State Supreme Court's decision is ultimately overturned."