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Pennsylvania GOP again asks U.S. Supreme Court to block mail ballot deadline extension

The quick return to an issue on which the court only just deadlocked raised the prospect of a different outcome after a new justice is installed next week.

A worker sorts mail ballots in Chester County.
A worker sorts mail ballots in Chester County.Read moreMargo Reed / Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court again late Friday to overturn a mail ballot deadline extension ordered by the state’s high court, quickly returning to an issue on which the Supreme Court had only just deadlocked and raising the prospect of a different outcome after a new justice is installed next week.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered last month that ballots be counted if county elections officials receive them in the mail by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, and they are either postmarked by the Nov. 3 Election Day or have no or illegible postmarks. State law requires ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, but the state court changed that deadline because of concerns that mail delays would disenfranchise voters.

In a filing Friday night with the nation’s high court, the state Republican Party made essentially the same argument it had unsuccessfully presented earlier to the same court: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling allows ballots to be cast and counted after Election Day, the GOP said, violating the federal law setting one single Election Day across the country, and is unconstitutional because it takes away the state legislature’s power to decide how elections are run.

In a 4-4 split Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court did not grant that previous emergency request to step in and block the deadline extension. Friday night’s filing differs in that it is asking the court to take up the case itself and decide whether the state court ruled properly. And Monday’s all-but-certain confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court could tip the balance in deciding the new request.

The GOP on Friday night also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to fast-track the case, given that Election Day is just over a week away.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about voting in Pennsylvania, by mail or in person

Also late Friday, the party asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to order any ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day be kept separate from the other ballots. That would allow them to be affected by a court ruling after Election Day. Otherwise, once ballots are counted and mixed together, there would be no way to remove them from the results.

It’s unclear exactly when Friday’s requests were filed, and they do not yet show up on the state or federal high courts' dockets. Lawyers were electronically served the U.S. Supreme Court documents by email shortly after 9 p.m. A little over an hour later, the state court system sent notification emails about the Pennsylvania filing. That filing included a copy of the U.S. Supreme Court request that the party said it had filed that day.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania GOP didn’t respond to requests for comment Saturday.