Supreme Court leaves NC absentee ballot deadline at Nov. 12

Early voters form a long line while waiting to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Some waited almost 3 hours to vote. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will allow absentee ballots in North Carolina to be received and counted up to nine days after Election Day.

The justices, by a 5-3 vote Wednesday, refused to disturb a decision by the State Board of Elections to lengthen the period from three to nine days because of the coronavirus pandemic, pushing back the deadline to Nov. 12. The board's decision was part of a legal settlement with a union-affiliated group.

Republicans had asked the high court to step in.

Under the Supreme Court’s order, mailed ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 in order to be counted.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices in the majority. Three conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, dissented.

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the case “because of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat whose office defended the deadline extension in court, hailed the high court’s decision in a statement. “North Carolina voters had a huge win tonight at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court upheld the State Board of Elections’ effort to ensure that every eligible vote counts, even during a pandemic,” he said. “Voters must have their mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, but now we all have certainty that every eligible vote will be counted. Let’s vote!”

Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger said the high court's order will undermine public confidence in government.