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Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an effort by the Trump campaign and Republicans to reverse a six-day mail ballot due date extension in North Carolina.

The ruling was a major blow for President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE, who polls show to be locked in a tight race with Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe West needs a more collaborative approach to Taiwan Abbott's medical advisers were not all consulted before he lifted Texas mask mandate House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act MORE in the crucial battleground state, a must-win for the president’s reelection chances.

The court’s three most conservative justices — Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasVernon Jordan: an American legend, and a good friend Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election MORE, Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoJustices hear sparring over scope of safeguards for minority voters Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court faces landmark challenge on voting rights Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster MORE — would have granted the request. Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettBill introduced to create RBG monument on Capitol Hill Supreme Court faces landmark challenge on voting rights The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster MORE, who joined the court Tuesday, did not participate in consideration of the case.

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The court did not disclose the justices’ exact voting breakdown, though it was clear the GOP bid failed to garner the five votes needed to block the deadline extension.

North Carolina Republicans had asked the justices to effectively undo a state court-approved agreement to push back the deadline for the receipt of mail ballots to accommodate voters during the pandemic. The new deadline added six days, from Nov. 6 to Nov. 12, for the receipt of ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3.

In a dissent, Gorsuch, joined by Alito, said the relaxed limits reflected an unlawful encroachment by North Carolina’s Board of Elections into the legislature’s management of the election. The due date extension, Gorsuch said, represented an “override [of] a carefully tailored legislative response to COVID.”

“Such last-minute changes by largely unaccountable bodies, too, invite confusion, risk altering election outcomes, and in the process threaten voter confidence in the results,” Gorsuch wrote.

Roughly 1.4 million voters in the state requested mail ballots for the upcoming election, which is almost seven times as many requests compared to this point in 2016, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. Polls show that supporters of Biden are about twice as likely as Trump voters to cast ballots by mail.

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The ruling Wednesday by the justices in the North Carolina case may not be the final word in the Tar Heel State, since it applied to only one of two GOP challenges.

Earlier on Wednesday, North Carolina Republicans filed a second request to the Supreme Court asking justices to reverse a North Carolina's top state court upholding ballot due date extension.

The Wednesday evening ruling came shortly after the court weighed in on a fight over Pennsylvania’s mail-ballot extension. In that case the court denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to fast-track their bid to reinstate a stricter due date, but held open the possibility of addressing the GOP effort after the election.

Updated 8:40 p.m.