Ballots that arrive several days late in the pivotal battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and North Carolina will get counted. But whether all those votes will actually count in the contest for president is still not sure.
That's the main takeaway from back-to-back rulings Wednesday from the Supreme Court. They were likely the last important voting decisions before an Election Day where the ground rules have been whipsawed as never before by partisan litigation fueled by a pandemic.
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The rules for voting by mail in North Carolina just got a bit clearer, and a bit easier. But plenty remains up in the air, 13 days before the voting stops, in one of the seven states on course to decide the presidency.
The state will accept ballots arriving as many as nine days late so long as they're postmarked by Election Day, a federal appeals court ruled 12-3 on Tuesday, a lopsided victory for Democrats and voting rights advocates in which all three judges President Trump named to the he 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against his interests.
But the three dissenting judges urged the Republicans to take their arguments to the Supreme Court, so the dispute may not be over. And federal and state courts are continuing to consider other lawsuits — about contested signatures on absentee ballots and whether poll watchers may observe vote-by-mail tabulation — that could also delay definitive election results for weeks beyond Election Day.
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