The decision from the high court is a success for Democrats, as the presidential campaign plans for an all-out battle for the state's 20 electoral votes.
The justices gave no explanation for their decision. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh all said, without more comments, they would have granted Republicans’ application for a stay.
The statement from the court shows that the shorthanded court divided 4-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining with the three remaining Democratic appointees to decline to grant emergency relief in this case.
Under court rules, a majority of the voting justices is typically required to grant a stay. If the court splits evenly, no relief is granted, indicating the action by the last lower court to handle the issue remains in effect.
The court’s deadlock in the Pennsylvania case and the chance that it indicates a similar outcome in other cases from battleground states could further strengthen an already hard-fought battle over Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month.
The result suggests the chance that if the Senate acts in the coming days to approve President Donald Trump’s nominee, appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the high court could form a majority capable of stepping in and blocking the ruling the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued last month if the state GOP or leaders from the state legislature attempt to rebuild their emergency applications.
Democrats claimed those arguments were without merit, with the state Democratic Party pressuring the justices to move the case from the emergency docket to the normal one and issuing a precedent-setting ruling that would strengthen Democrats’ hand in fighting similar GOP-led legal difficulties in other states, which the court similarly did not do.
The victory for Democrats in this year’s pitched legal fight over election rules proposed an acrimonious clash on social media between attorneys on both sides of the fight.
“GREAT NEWS for voting rights and voters in Pennsylvania!,” Democratic attorney Marc Elias stated soon after the ruling was announced.
“This is a loss for voters and for election integrity, you partisan hack,” Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis replied.
“Being called a ‘partisan hack’ by a lawyer for Donald Trump is a badge of honor I will wear proudly for a lifetime," Elias countered.
Under the state court arrangement, ballots postmarked after Election Day would not be included, but those missing postmarks would be included if they arrive in the ensuing three days, unless "a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day." The Pennsylvania court also allowed the use of drop-boxes to collect absentee ballots.