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The Supreme Court declined to intervene in the voting in two swing states. Pennsylvania and North Carolina both want to extend the time for counting absentee ballots. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports the court turned aside challenges last night.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: In Pennsylvania, it was the second time the court had refused a bid by the state Republican Party to block a three-day extension for counting absentee ballots amid the pandemic. The first time the court considered the case last week, the justices deadlocked. That left in place of Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision based on the state constitution. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the court's three liberals, explaining later that his decision was based on the court's long-held reliance on state courts to interpret state constitutions and statutes.
That left new Justice Amy Coney Barrett with the potential power to cast the tie-breaking vote this week, but Barrett did not participate in either the Pennsylvania or North Carolina case. Her decision was particularly noteworthy because her vote might have changed the outcome and because a Pennsylvania county had earlier this week filed and then withdrawn a formal request for the new justice to recuse herself. A highly unusual statement issued by the Supreme Court press office last night said that Barrett did not participate because of the need for a prompt resolution of the cases and because the new justice, quote, "had not had time to fully review the written arguments submitted to the court."
In both the Pennsylvania and North Carolina cases, three conservatives dissented - Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch. The court, of course, could still hear either the Pennsylvania or North Carolina case after the election, especially if the vote in either case is close and pivotal to the outcome of the general election.
Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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