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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 John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE, who polls show to be locked in a tight race with Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Biden says staff has spoken with Fauci: 'He's been very, very helpful' MORE in the crucial battleground state, a must-win for the president’s reelection chances.

The court’s three most conservative justices — Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasDefusing the judicial confirmation process Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life-support? The overlooked significance Kamala Harris brought to the Biden-Harris ticket MORE, Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoAlito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open No thank you, Dr. Fauci COVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process Reinvesting in American leadership MORE — would have granted the request. Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettMcConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report Federal appeals court sides with Texas, Louisiana efforts to cut Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience 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.