Republicans and the Trump campaign have called on the court to reinstate the June deadline set by the state legislature to allow ballots only up to three days before election day.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein praised the court order, saying it was a “huge victory.”
“The court upheld the State Election Board’s effort to ensure that every eligible vote is counted, even during an epidemic,” he said in a statement.
There were two separate challenges, one brought by the Trump campaign and the other by Republicans, and the second by Republican North Carolina legislators.
Tuesday’s orders did not specify the number of votes cast. In both, Judges Samuel Alito, Neil Korsch and Clarence Thomas noted their differences. It would have taken five judges to grant the request of the Republicans.
Electoral legal expert Rick Hassan said there were some reasons why Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Brett Kavanagh should not side with their conservative colleagues. He noted that the case was more complicated by practical issues than the recent suffrage challenges before judges. There may also have been a desire not to change the rules too close to the election.
“Many voters have already made their ballots according to the deadline,” Hassan said.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court allowed a nine-day extension set by the state election board amid the epidemic as part of a legal settlement.
The Court of Appeals ruled that “this extension makes it easier for more people to vote in the midst of a global epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.”
Among their challenges to the state board’s action was the Republicans’ argument that the board was trying to “rewrite the election code” and snatch the power of the General Assembly, which only allowed a three-day extension in June. In court summaries, he said the decision by the Republican group of lawyers “undermines the equal protection rights of voters, which has already caused voter confusion and confusion.”
Korsuk, writing to himself and Alito, stressed that the Republicans, along with the state legislature, have the power to set the election rules.
“The North Carolina Constitution confers all legislative powers on the General Assembly, not the Board or anyone else,” Korsuk wrote.
Lawyers for the Democrat-led board argued that the state election board was authorized by law to adjust election rules to deal with emergencies. The board had extended the deadline, arguing that it was “to protect legitimate North Carolina voters from casting their ballots due to postal delays that the Postal Service publicly warned the state.”
They reiterated that the extension would not affect the fact that the ballot had yet to be postmarked by election day.
This story is updated with more details, analysis and reactions.