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Supreme Court Will Not Hear Pennsylvania Election Case Over Mail-In Ballots

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said on Monday it would not hear an appeal from Republicans in Pennsylvania who sought to disqualify the ballots mailed in the 2020 presidential election that came after election day.

The brief court order gave no reason to dismiss the case, marking the end of the Supreme Court’s litigation over the election. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented, saying the court should have used it to provide guidance in future elections.

The dissenting judges acknowledged that the number of ballots at issue in the case was too small to affect President Biden’s victory in the state. But the legal question raised by the case – over the power of state courts to review election laws – was, they said, an important issue that should be resolved without the pressure of an impending election.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that ballots sent out before election day could be counted if they arrived up to three days after. On two occasions before the election, the United States Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case, although several justices expressed doubts about the power of the state court to override the Legislative Assembly of the state, which set a deadline on polling day for receiving ballots by mail.

On Monday, Judge Thomas wrote that the time had come to take up the case.

“At first glance,” he writes, “it may seem reasonable to address this question the next time it arises. After all, the 2020 election is now over, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling was not decisive for the federal election. But however strong this argument may be in other contexts, it fails in the context of elections.

“Because the court system is not well suited to deal with these kinds of issues in the short time available immediately after an election,” Judge Thomas wrote, “we should use the cases available outside of this truncated context. to answer these questions, certainly important.

In a separate dissent, Judge Alito, joined by Judge Gorsuch, agreed that “our review at this time would be very beneficial.”

“A decision in these cases would have no bearing on the 2020 elections,” Judge Alito wrote. “But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections.”

On October 19, before Judge Amy Coney Barrett joined the court, the justices found themselves in a deadlock, 4 to 4, over an emergency request in the case. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they would have granted a stay blocking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. On the other side were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the three-member Liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Later that month, judges refused a plea from state Republicans to expedite a decision on the legality of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In a statement released at the time, Judge Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, criticized the court’s handling of the case, which he said had “unnecessarily created conditions that could lead to serious problems. post-election ”.

“The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an executive order which outright amends an important statutory provision enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature under its authority under the Constitution of the United States to establish rules governing the conduct of elections for federal office.” , wrote Judge Alito adding that he regretted that the election was taking place “under a cloud”.

“It would be highly desirable to render a decision on the constitutionality of the state Supreme Court’s decision before the elections,” Judge Alito wrote. “This issue is of national importance, and it is highly likely that the state Supreme Court’s decision violates the Federal Constitution.”

But there was not enough time, he wrote. Yet Judge Alito left no doubt about his position on the issue in the case.

“The provisions of the Federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, and not on state courts, the power to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless,” he wrote, “if a court of The state could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by asserting that the constitutional provisions of the state gave the courts the power to make the rules they deemed appropriate for the conduct of a fair election. “

Even after the election, Pennsylvania Republicans continued to seek a Supreme Court review in the Pennsylvania Republican Party v Boockvar case, No. 20-542, claiming judges should address the issue she presented of orderly manner.

“By resolving the important and recurring issues now, the Court can provide the advice that legislatures and state courts across the country desperately need outside of the context of a hotly contested election and ahead of the next election,” their report said. memory. “The alternative is for the court to leave legislatures and courts with a lack of advance guidance and clarity regarding the oversight law – only to be called upon to answer these questions in a future after-the-fact litigation over a contested election,” with the time that accompanies it. pressures and perceptions of partisan interest. “

On Monday, Judge Thomas wrote that the court had missed an opportunity.

“One wonders what awaits this tribunal”, he wrote. “We failed to resolve this dispute before the election, and therefore provide clear rules. Today we again fail to provide clear rules for future elections.

“The decision to leave the electoral law hidden under a veil of doubt is puzzling,” Judge Thomas wrote. “By doing nothing we are causing further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our citizens deserve better and expect more from us. “

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Here’s what we know about when the postal ballots will be counted.

All eyes were on the mailed ballots when the general election results were counted in November. And now, with Senate scrutiny hinged on two ballots in Georgia, it’s no surprise that mail-in ballots are once again gaining attention. Here’s what we know when they’ll be counted:

Mail-in ballots could not be counted before polling closed, even if they arrived before polling day. But many ballots have already been processed, which means the signatures and addresses of the envelopes have been verified, although the counting of the votes themselves did not begin until Tuesday evening.

Of course, it is difficult to say how long it will take for all of the postal ballots to be counted.

First, some ballots may not have been received yet. Although most Georgians should have received their ballots before the polls close at 7 p.m., voters in the East, the military and foreigners have three additional days to receive their ballots, provided they are sent by post. Tuesday.

Second, some counties will count their mail-in ballots faster than others.

So when will all the ballots in the mail actually be counted? Only time will tell.

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‘This vote counts more than anything’: Ballots are cast in high-stakes ballots

MARIETTA, Georgia – These were the makers, the voters who moved along the lines that began before dawn Tuesday and continued long after sunset, their ballots coded her in a pair of contests that determine which political party controls the US Senate.

For weeks they had been bombarded with television and radio commercials, text messages and phone calls, all highlighting the breadth of their choices.

“You always hear in every election cycle that that vote counts more than anything,” said Jasmine Knapp, 30, who voted – for whom, she wouldn’t say – at a polling station in Dalton, about 90 miles north of the city. north of Atlanta. “But it seems true this time.”

The seriousness of the high-stakes contests was reflected in the turnout: more than three million people voted early, or about 40 percent of the state’s registered voters – a staggering turnout in the second round.

Regular lines to dozens of polling sites on Tuesday reported continued enthusiasm for a contest that has implications far beyond Georgia. The direction of US policy for at least the next two years will be shaped by the outcome.

The state has been gripped in recent weeks by transformation talks, as a once-reliable Republican stronghold voted for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., the first Democratic winner in 28 years. And the second round emerged as a test of Georgia’s evolution, as Democratic challengers – Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock – forced the two sitting Republican senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – to a second round ballot. .

These circumstances strongly influenced the decisions of many voters, who said their views on President Trump and their concerns about the party controlling the Senate led them to the polls. Individual candidates mattered less, they said.

The campaigns also portrayed the races in the strictest terms, with Democratic candidates referred to as radical and socialist by their Republican opponents, and Democrats enraged by Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of a fraudulent general election, insisting on the fact that nothing less than democracy was at stake.

This intensity fueled participation.

“We’re tired of this,” said Sony Tiggs, an account executive who moved from Chicago to suburban Atlanta two years ago and voted for the Democrats.

In Dalton, a rural area where Mr. Trump held a rally on Monday to mobilize support for Republican candidates, Tories knew their task was to overcome a high Democratic turnout in early and mail-in votes.

“The turnout is high, you can tell, because there is never a line,” said Lane Lewis, 44, who waited until election day to vote because he was more confident than his ballot would be counted.

In the affluent Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, which has been at the heart of Georgia’s political development, many voters have spoken of finding a balance. Some voted for Mr Biden in the general election, but then voted for Mr Perdue and Ms Loeffler, citing concerns that the Democrats have too strong a grip on power.

“It’s essential,” Carol Farrish, a teacher who said she voted for Republicans, said of her vote. “We need a balance of power so that one side cannot roll the other.”

Tyler Applonie, 37, said he voted for Mr Trump in November but was not terribly disheartened when Mr Biden won. While claiming to support Mr. Trump’s policies, he was wary of the sense of chaos Mr. Trump had created in the country.

On Tuesday, Mr Applonie said he voted for the Republican candidates mainly because he feared the Democrats were gaining too much power. He said he also believes the country benefits from the momentum and attraction of the negotiations.

“It’s almost radical to be in the center,” said Mr. Applonie, who works in sales for a tech company. “My hope is a compromise. The risk is that there may be a complete blockage. “

But that’s precisely what Joy Phenix wanted.

“They need support,” Ms. Phenix said of Democrats, adding that as a libertarian her goal was to try to hinder government excessiveness. She voted for Mr. Biden and the Republican senators; she said if Mr. Trump had won, she would have voted for the Democrats.

A newly formed political action committee called Georgia Balance spent $ 2.5 million to target those who voted for Mr. Biden but feared full Democratic control of Congress.

The group posted an online video ad in which a woman in a well-equipped kitchen identifies herself as Georgian, mother of three – and voter of Biden. “In the second round of the Senate, I vote for David and Kelly,” said the woman. “We just need to breathe. America needs balance. With Joe, Kelly and David, we’ll get it.

Tuesday’s vote went smoothly, with voting rights groups, political parties and campaigns all reporting no major issues. State election officials said the average statewide wait time was five minutes.

Across the state, a steady stream of people voted. In some places, one-hour queues stretched outside polling stations. In others, it was barely a trickle. Atlanta-based entertainment mogul Tyler Perry returned from Wyoming after his mail-in ballot never arrived. “Too important to miss it,” he said on Twitter. “Too important to miss!”

In western Atlanta, Whitney Leonard, 24, said she was not beholden to the Democratic Party, but believed Democratic Senate control was essential to repairing the damage she had caused by Mr. Trump.

She cast her very first ballot in the general election. She had been incarcerated and had completed her probation last year. “You don’t know how privileged it is to vote,” Ms. Leonard said, “until it’s taken from you.”

Outside a church in Norcross, Gwinnett County outside of Atlanta, Rosie Ramirez attempted to take a selfie with a “Vote Aquí” banner floating behind her. The peach sticker on her sweater stated that she had voted.

She was also concerned about health care as she needed a liver transplant. “It’s very, very expensive,” she says. “I need good insurance.”

But standing in the choppy wind on a chilly afternoon, she was enveloped in enthusiasm.

“It’s my country!” Ms Ramirez said after voting. “I came here to express my voice!”

Richard Fausset and Sean keenan contributed reporting from Atlanta, and Astead W. Herndon from Dalton, Ga.

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Former Houston officer investigating ‘fraudulent’ ballots charged with assault

A former Houston police captain, who officials said was investigating a electoral fraud conspiracy theory for a group of conservative activists, has been arrested and charged with pointing his gun at an air conditioner repairer he he had sued to try to uncover fraudulent ballots, prosecutors said Tuesday. .

Former captain Mark A. Aguirre, 63, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and then released on $ 30,000 bail on Tuesday.

According to a police affidavit, Mr. Aguirre struck the repairman’s van with his sport utility vehicle on the morning of October 19. When the man got out of his truck, Mr. Aguirre pointed a handgun at him and ordered him to board. the ground and squeezed a knee behind his back, he said.

Other people who arrived searched the repairman’s truck for ballots and, finding none, chased him away, the repairman said, according to the affidavit. The truck was found abandoned nearby.

Mr. Aguirre had been hired by a group of conservative activists, the Liberty Center for God & Country, to investigate allegations of voter fraud, according to a statement from the office of Kim Ogg, the Harris County district attorney.

Credit…Houston Police Department, via Associated Press

“He crossed the line from dirty politics to the commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” Ms. Ogg said. “His alleged investigation was back from the start – first alleging a crime had been committed, then trying to prove it happened.”

Mr. Aguirre spent more than two decades working for the Houston Police Department and was fired in 2003 after carrying out a botched raid targeting drag racers that resulted in the illegal arrests of around 300 people, whose records associated with the episode were subsequently deleted.

Across the United States, a series of lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign and its allies for electoral fraud have been thrown out in state and federal courts. Election officials representing both parties said there was no evidence that fraud played a role in determining the election outcome.

The Liberty Center group that hired Mr. Aguirre had promoted the false rhetoric that mail-in ballots would be used to steal the election from President Trump. According to the prosecutor’s office, the group paid Mr. Aguirre $ 266,400, of which $ 211,400 was deposited into his account the day after his collision with the repairman’s truck.

Terry W. Yates, a lawyer representing Mr. Aguirre, asked why the charges were not filed until almost two months after the episode.

“It’s a political pursuit,” Yates said, adding that the Oct. 19 confrontation started as a fender-bender and is now being used to undermine the Liberty Center. “The powers that be in Harris County are trying to use this as a diversionary tactic to show that there is no voter fraud here, which is ridiculous,” he said.

Houston Police said in a statement that “a lengthy investigation by the HPD determined that the allegations of voter fraud were unfounded and that no evidence of an illegal ballot was found” before the case is referred to the prosecutor’s office.

Liberty Center executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Jared Woodfill, a lawyer who is the president of the center, told KFYR news broadcaster that the organization had hired Mr Aguirre as an investigator. But he expressed doubts about the official version of events on October 19. “I would be shocked if that is what happened,” he said.

On the day of the confrontation, the repairman initially thought he was robbed and feared for his life, according to an affidavit from Detective John Varela of the Houston Police Department.

Mr Aguirre told Detective Varela that he and the Liberty Center had investigated a ballot collection plot, according to the affidavit, and that he and his friends had been watching the repairman’s home for four days.

The affidavit stated that Mr. Aguirre claimed that the repairman “had about seven hundred and fifty thousand fraudulent ballots and was using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children’s fingerprints would not show up in any database.” .

Mr Aguirre said he was monitoring when he accidentally crashed into the repairman’s truck, adding that he then got out of his vehicle and pointed his gun at the repairman, the affidavit said.

He added that Mr. Aguirre also tried to enlist local authorities in his case: three days before the collision, Mr. Aguirre had asked an official from the Texas attorney general’s office to conduct a traffic stop in order to investigate the repairman. And while being interviewed by Detective Varela on October 19, Mr. Aguirre said the detective may be a hero or part of the problem, according to the affidavit, adding, “I just hope you are a patriot.”

The affidavit indicated that the repairman had given the Houston police his consent to search his house, truck and storage shed. They found no evidence of electoral fraud.

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“The ballots could be from Mickey Mouse,” the president’s lawyer said. Likewise, its legal strategy.

In some ways, however, at least in the client’s worldview. As has been said on numerous occasions, Mr. Trump has treated his entire public life – certainly his presidency – like a chaotic and evolving reality show, and this post-election period was no different.

He does not appear to care about the solemn legal, civic and political leaders who have lamented his conduct. “It is disturbing to see not only the president but many other elected officials treating democracy with such cavalry,” said Benjamin Geffen, an attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, who is also involved in the Pennsylvania case against the Trump campaign.

As long as Mr. Trump has a grand strategy, Mr. Levitt said, it seems less about litigation than public relations. The president’s overarching goal appears to be simply to dismiss as many claims as possible, no matter how far-fetched or unfounded, in an attempt to cast doubt on Mr. Biden’s victory.

While that might fail to convince the judges or persuade an unlikely amalgam of Republican officials, legislatures and voters to take extraordinary action on behalf of the president, it would propel at least a narrative that Mr. Trump is seen denied a legitimate victory.

One of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, Sidney Powell, went so far as to say this week that the president actually won the election “not just by hundreds of thousands of votes, but by millions of votes.” However, she added, the votes cast for Mr. Trump had been negatively transferred to Mr. Biden by software “designed expressly for this purpose.”

Ms Powell also said that the CIA previously ignored complaints about the software. She urged the president to fire Gina Haspel, the director of the CIA.

As the past four years have shown, Mr. Trump’s say-anything style has been emulated by his henchmen, like Ms. Powell, and can prove brutally effective in certain political and media contexts. But it has limits in more rigorous, rule-based places, like the court.

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Video: Officials say ballots are still counted in Clark County, Nevada

new video loaded: Officials say ballots are still counted in Clark County Nevada



Officials say ballots are still counted in Clark County Nevada

The Clark County, Nevada, Registrar of Electors on Thursday said election results may not be available until the weekend.

Today staff are preparing to count, and have already started counting, just over 51,000 ballots which will be returned tomorrow before my 10 o’clock brief. It is important that everyone understands that there are also additional ballots pending outside of what I have just described. The Nevada Healing Process, which is statutorily required for voters who have been told they did not sign their ballot or their signature does not match in our system – they have until Thursday, November 12 to remedy this ballot. The last day we will be able to compile and send the ballots into the system is November 12th. We expect the majority of our mail-in ballots to have been received into the system by Saturday or Sunday. Ballots that arrive via US Mail or are being processed will be a small number. And we will continue to register them, but most of our ballots that we hope will be read by Saturday or Sunday, this weekend. And again, we won’t end until November 12th with all of these other ballots.

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Some regions still experience slow delivery of postal ballots

The agency also argued that the daily delivery rates submitted to the courts do not accurately reflect performance, as scores fluctuate based on the day and volume of mail. However, a spokesperson for the Postal Service said it could not provide weekly figures by region.

The Postal Service blamed the pandemic and labor shortages for some of the low rates. As coronavirus cases increase across the country, the Detroit District reported that only 78% of its employees were available for work, while central Pennsylvania reported 84%, according to a court record on Friday.

“That’s one of the things that really worries me this year,” said Tammy Patrick, former Arizona election administrator and senior advisor to the Democracy Fund, a research and advocacy group. “As you get closer and closer to Election Day, your options tend to run out.”

Keith Combs, president of the Detroit branch of the American Postal Workers Union, said the post office was still recovering from operational cuts imposed this summer by Louis DeJoy, the post general manager, as he continued to make faced with a shortage of employees.

Safeguards in mail delivery were better than they once were, but customers were still experiencing delays, Mr Combs said. The Postal Service was careful to try to protect the ballots from slowdowns, but some could fall through the cracks, he added.

Michigan and Pennsylvania are far from the only places reporting problems. Lakeland, the postal service district that covers most of Wisconsin and northern Illinois, has consistently fallen below the national average, along with Atlanta. The Gulf of Atlantic District, which includes parts of Georgia and Florida, also performed below the national average on most days this week.

Other swing states have not experienced such widespread delays. Some Florida postal districts, including Suncoast and South Florida, have mostly had ballots to election officials at rates above 90 percent this week. With the exception of Friday and Saturday, Arizona’s on-time mail delivery rate remained above 97%.

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Fewer rejected advance ballots than expected

“Courts are now very sensitive to the reasons for the disqualification of postal votes,” said Dr Persily. “When dealing with very few of them, those reasons might not seem significant. But now that cavalier application of the rules has led to the disqualification of tens of thousands of ballots, they are more likely to provide strict and consistent enforcement of those guidelines.

Indeed, many election officials go the extra mile to welcome voters. In Davidson County of Nashville, election workers used pink highlighters to underline the often overlooked signature lines on the approximately 37,000 absence ballots they mailed to voters. As of last week, officials had reported just 11 ballots that lacked proper signatures, said Jeff Roberts, the county electoral officer.

While the rate of disqualified ballots has unmistakably declined in some jurisdictions, one of the leading experts in postal voting, Daniel A. Smith of the University of Florida, offers a completely different explanation.

In Florida, where 1.3% of postal ballots were rejected in 2018, the reject rate on Monday was just 0.3%. But “it’s not that we have fewer rejected ballots,” Smith said. “It is because we have a higher rate of ballots processed” – that is, corrected and made eligible for the count.

This is especially true in battlefield states like Florida and Georgia. In both states, armies of workers from political parties, candidates and advocacy groups are throwing voters whose ballots have been rejected by phone calls and emails urging them to correct their mistakes. In Florida, where some 32,000 ballots were rejected in 2018, only 14,072 were rejected as of Monday, two-thirds of which were due to lack of signatures.

“In every county we are putting in a massive effort on the ground” to correct voting errors, Smith said. “And we have never seen anything like it in the previous election.”

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Video: Trump Wrongly Says Ballots Counted After Election Day Illegitimate

new video loaded: Trump Wrongly Says Ballots Counted After Election Day Illegitimate



Trump Wrongly Says Ballots Counted After Election Day Illegitimate

At a rally in Iowa on Sunday, President Trump cast doubt on the legitimacy of ballots counted after November 3. In fact, no state is legally bound to report the final results on election night, and no state ever does.

“I’ve seen people get an election robbed, and by the way, we’re not going to let that happen to us. You know? With these bulletins. What about the Supreme Court decision, where the Supreme Court – no, that was not good news – the Supreme Court gave them more time, more time. What does that mean? Does that mean we go and wait, so it’s not November 3rd? Is it going to be much later than that? No, we should know the outcome of the November 3 election. The evening of November 3. This is how it went, and this is how it should be. What is happening in this country? What’s going on?”

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Keep up to date with the latest news from the 2020 election campaign.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the 2020 election campaign.


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Americans abroad are waiting to see if the ballots they mailed arrive

State election officials, as well as legal and technology experts and some nonprofit groups that promote voting, have argued that the electronic delivery of ballots raises security and privacy concerns and that changing the rules if near the election would place an excessive burden on election officials and confuse voters. Earlier this year, several federal agencies issued guidelines classifying the return of electronic ballots as high risk.

J. Remy Green, one of the attorneys who brought the case, said electronic voting via the internet or apps should not be confused with the electronic transmission of ballots, which is more difficult to hack because it involves individual email accounts and fax transmissions, and that the security risk was outweighed by the benefits to voters abroad. The Department of Defense even provides a free e-mail-to-fax service to return the ballots abroad.

George Sorrells, an IT professional living outside Zurich, and his wife, Julie Sorrells, tracked their ballots in Wisconsin, only to find his had arrived but his had not. When Mr Sorrells investigated, he realized that he forgot to sign his wife’s ballot as a witness and that she would have to send a new one from Switzerland.

As the election approached, they sent out the second ballot via FedEx. Mr Sorrells, who spent nearly $ 80 in total returning their ballots, said it was worth making sure they arrived. But he said in some ways he would have felt more secure if there was an email option.

“I paid all that extra money to keep up with the stupid thing,” he said, “and then I found myself again for almost two weeks thinking, ‘OK, did this thing really do. successful or not? ‘ ‘

Dana Rawls, a Georgian voter who works in communications in Adelaide, Australia, said she had voted from the country without a problem since 2006, “but this year has been an absolute nightmare.”

After Georgia’s primary elections in June, Ms Rawls was dismayed to learn that the local election office never received her full ballot. She was determined that her vote would be counted in November.