A Supreme Court Split on Voting

  • The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday on absentee ballots in Pennsylvania offered a preview of how the court may rule on the raft of voting-rights cases that are bound to show up on its docket as Republicans seek to limit voting amid the pandemic.

  • In a split decision, the justices let stand a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that will allow the state to count absentee ballots received up to three days after Election Day. Republicans had challenged Pennsylvania officials’ plan to count ballots after Nov. 3 as long as they were mailed by that date, but the state court upheld it.

  • Hypothetically speaking, if Pennsylvania came down to a margin of less than one percentage point in the presidential election, as it did four years ago, even a relatively small volume of extra mail-in ballots could tip the scales in Democrats’ favor. Polls and data on absentee ballots returned so far affirm that Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to vote by mail.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts yesterday joined the liberal wing, which is now down to three members after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in rejecting Republicans’ request for a stay on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling.

  • The justices’ deadlocked ruling — with the four conservative justices besides Roberts united in support of Republicans’ request to limit voting — suggests that Judge Amy Coney Barrett may play a decisive role in deciding any postelection legal cases if the Senate confirms her to the court this month, as it is expected to do.

  • A number of voting-related lawsuits in Pennsylvania remain undecided, including whether election officials will have to perform signature matching on absentee ballots.

  • Here’s a state-by-state guide on the battlegrounds, assessing the readiness of each state’s election system to handle voting during the pandemic.

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates would like to avoid another shoutfest. So yesterday it announced new rules for the debate on Thursday, the final one between President Trump and Joe Biden: Each candidate’s microphone will be muted while his opponent delivers an initial two-minute response to questions, then turned on during the period of “open discussion.”

  • The Trump campaign had said it opposed making amendments to the rules, and it issued a statement last night bashing what it called “last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate.” But the campaign said the president remained committed to participating in the debate.

  • As he struggles to regain momentum in the face of Biden’s lead in the polls, Trump has not exactly been modulating his tone in an effort to reach moderate voters. Yesterday he complained that people were “tired” of hearing about the coronavirus pandemic, and called Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, “a disaster.”

  • In fact, with virus cases rising in many places across the country, Americans are growing only more likely to mention Covid-19 as a major concern, according to surveys. And polling continues to show that Fauci is considerably more trusted and better liked by voters than Trump.

  • More than 70,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in the United States on Friday, the highest figure since July 24, according to a Times database.

  • Fauci has advised Americans to stay focused on preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and he has warned the public to “hunker down” in preparation for a difficult winter. The president, on the other hand, has painted the virus as an inconvenience, rather than a proven killer.

  • “He’s been here for 500 years,” Trump said on a call with his campaign team that several reporters listened in on. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.”

  • As Trump has publicly clashed with Fauci, he has elevated his own pandemic adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no experience in infectious disease or epidemiology. He has promoted a strategy that calls for allowing the virus to spread naturally while shielding only the most vulnerable.

  • A New York Times/Siena College poll out today found that Biden is leading Trump by nine percentage points among likely voters nationwide. The former vice president held a 23-point advantage over Trump among women, while trailing by six points among men.

  • The poll found that half of likely voters said they were actually better off now than they were four years ago, while under one-third said they were doing worse now. But respondents said by an even wider margin that the country was in worse shape, 55 percent to 39 percent.

  • When it comes to the pandemic, a majority of voters said they thought the worst was yet to come, and seven in 10 said they wanted Congress to pass a multitrillion-dollar stimulus package to mitigate its effects.

  • Officers in the same Russian military intelligence unit that helped publicize stolen Democratic Party emails in 2016 have been accused of a vast hacking campaign with targets around the world.

  • The Justice Department yesterday unsealed the charges, which say that six officers participated in an effort that included disrupting a French presidential election, the electricity grid in Ukraine and internet access at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The actions cost institutions in the targeted countries billions of dollars, according to the indictment.

  • This was the first time a major law enforcement agency made an allegation that the Russians were behind these breaches. The new charges did not address the Russian interference in the 2020 election, although American intelligence agencies say it is occurring.

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