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The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting

The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting
© Greg Nash

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail:

 

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LEADING THE DAY: 

Pennsylvania Republicans are set to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene after the state’s Supreme Court moved to extend the deadline for submitting mail ballots in the general election, setting up the first major test for the nation’s highest court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Ruth Bader Ginsburg, George Floyd among options for 'Remember the Titans' school's new name Bipartisan anger builds over police failure at Capitol MORE

The Hill’s John Kruzel uncovered the plans in a pair of court documents filed overnight and Tuesday morning. One of the filings argued that the decision to extend the mail ballot deadline would open up the state’s elections to voter fraud:

“The Court’s judgment...creates a serious likelihood that Pennsylvania’s imminent general election will be tainted by votes that were illegally cast or mailed after Election Day,” the Pennsylvania Republican Party wrote in a Monday night filing.

The state GOP hasn’t yet filed its petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. But it did ask the state Supreme Court to temporarily halt enforcement of its ruling last week that election officials must count mail ballots received up to three days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3. If granted, that request would buy Republicans time to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The move is the latest example of legal maneuvering in the 2020 election. But it’s also a big test for the post-Ginsburg Supreme Court and its eight remaining members. President TrumpDonald TrumpClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE has said he plans to name a replacement for Ginsburg as soon as Friday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to hold hearings and a vote on the eventual nominee. But it’s unlikely that a new justice will join the court in time to weigh in on Pennsylvania’s mail ballot deadline. 

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Some background on what’s been happening in Pennsylvania...

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order extending the due date for mail ballots was one of a few election-related decisions handed down last Thursday, along with rulings that allowed voters to return mail ballots via drop box and removing Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins from the general election ballot. Those decisions were generally seen as favorable to Joe BidenJoe BidenKaty Perry and her 'Firework' close out inauguration TV special Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Tom Hanks: After years of 'troubling rancor,' Inauguration Day 'is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal' MORE and the Democrats, given that more of the party’s voters are expected to vote by mail this year than Republicans.

But Republicans scored one key win with the state Supreme Court. A ruling handed down last week ordered election officials to toss out so-called “naked ballots” — mail ballots returned without being sealed in an inner “secrecy envelope.” Previously, the Pennsylvania Department of State advised county officials to count those ballots. Now, the state Supreme Court’s decision is raising fears among some officials and voting rights advocates that thousands of ballots could be invalidated, potentially affecting the outcome of the presidential election in a state that Trump carried in 2016 by only 44,000 votes.

 

SUPREME POLITICS

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP senators praise Biden's inauguration speech LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing The Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges MORE (R-Maine), who is among the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection in 2020, said Tuesday that she’d be a “no” vote if Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is brought to the Senate floor before the election.

“If there is one, I would oppose the nominee," Collins told reporters.

The liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century is launching new ads hitting GOP Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (Colo.), John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats torn on impeachment trial timing McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again MORE (Texas), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader Senate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen MORE (S.C.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Democrats see Georgia as model for success across South McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (N.C.), all of whom have expressed support for the potential nominee getting a vote.

Still, it appears that Republicans are moving steadily toward replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg irrespective of the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

Democrats had held out hope that Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Romney: Founders didn't intend pardons to be used for 'cronies' MORE (R-Utah) would buck the president once again.

Those hopes vanished Tuesday when the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee signaled he’d be open to confirming a nominee this year.

Biden has made plain that he believes the winner of the Nov. 3 election should get to pick Ginsburg’s replacement.

But how does he feel about growing calls on the left to pack the courts or end the filibuster?

Biden isn’t saying yet, although it will be difficult for him to avoid weighing in at the first presidential debate moderated by Fox New anchor Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceChris Wallace: This was best inaugural address I've ever heard Fox News's DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire Arkansas governor: Intelligence on state capitol protests 'not to the level that I'm bringing out the National Guard' MORE next week. Wallace announced Tuesday that the Supreme Court will be among the issues he addresses.

The Democratic nominee was asked directly by a reporter from a Wisconsin television affiliate this week if he would expand the Supreme Court if Republicans get their nominee on the bench.

Biden said he didn’t want to answer because it would shift the focus away from GOP efforts to confirm a new justice only weeks out from Election Day.

“Let’s say I answer that question, then the whole debates gonna be about what Biden said or didn’t say, Biden said he would or wouldn’t,” Biden said. “The discussion should be about why [Trump] is moving in a direction that’s totally inconsistent with what founders wanted…It is a fundamental breach of Constitutional principle. It must stay on that and it shouldn’t happen.”



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THE RUSSIA THREAT 

The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden's first foreign leader call to be with Canada's Trudeau on Friday Gorbachev says Biden should work to 'normalize relations' with Russia A vision for Russia MORE is behind a disinformation campaign aimed at the Biden campaign. 

Two sources with knowledge of a top secret CIA report told the publication that the report concluded that Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach peddled "disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.” 

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the opening line of report reads, according to the Post. 

The report says that Derkach has connections to Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Sore loser politics: A Mexican lesson about Trump Pardon talk intensifies as Trump approaches final 24 hours in office MORE



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CANVASSING IN A PANDEMIC 

Political canvassers normally take to the streets of neighborhoods across the country in the final weeks ahead of a presidential election, but a new poll shows that the coronavirus pandemic is putting a damper on that activity. 

Sixty-three percent of voters in a Morning Consult/Politico survey released on Tuesday, said they felt apprehensive about the possibility of encountering a canvasser at their door, while 28 percent said they were comfortable with that kind of in-person contact. 

Prior to the pandemic, 42 percent said they were comfortable with the practice while 47 percent said it made them feel uncomfortable. 

 

IT’S NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION DAY 

Today marks National Voter Registration Day, a day dedicated to turning out the vote across the country ahead of Election Day. 

The nonpartisan holiday was first celebrated in 2012 and close to 3 million people have registered to vote on the holiday since it was first launched, according to its official website.

On top of that, the holiday has engaged roughly 20,000 volunteers. 

Former President Obama marked the holiday with a video, warning voters that the stakes in November are "bigger than Joe or the man he's running to replace."

Meanwhile, a number of celebrities acknowledged the day on social media. The Hill’s Judy Kurtz has more on how our favorite celebrities are using their influence to turn out the vote. 

You can check your status and/or register to vote here.