On Oct. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to allow absentee ballots to be counted up to nine days after Election Day, Nov. 3, in North Carolina. Republicans had issued a plea to only count ballots received by Election Day, but the Supreme Court invalidated their petition and ruled that the extension granted by the State Board of Elections was allowed. The decision to grant extra time was based on the COVID-19 pandemic and possible delays in mail service.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, many states have granted extensions for the counting of absentee ballots. Some states have granted up to 17 days past Election Day, as long as it is postmarked on or by Nov. 3. Notably, Pennsylvania was also granted extra time by the Supreme Court on Oct. 28 in a case with no noted dissents. However, North Carolina’s case was decided in a 5-3 vote and had three noted dissents by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Recently confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in either ruling because she felt that she did not have enough time to read up on the case briefs beforehand.
It is important to note that neither of these decisions is final, as the brief orders were not signed. Justice Alito made a statement regarding the reason that the Supreme Court left the cases open, saying, “I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election.” This leaves the cases open for possible reevaluation on Election Day.
Therefore, it is important to turn in absentee ballots as if they will not be counted after Nov. 3. To ensure that mail-in ballots are counted, voters should drop off ballots at the closest election drop box, county election office or other designated location. Instructions on how to cast an absentee ballot and information about the closest drop-off locations can be found on the North Carolina State Board of Elections' website.
By Elinor Shelp-Peck, Co-Editor in Chief