Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has ordered county elections officials in Pennsylvania to keep separate mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day. The state’s top elections official already had ordered those ballots be kept apart.
The order came Friday night in response to a plea from the state Republican Party as Democrat Joe Biden inched ahead of President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania in the presidential race.
Alito, acting on his own, said he was motivated in part by the Republicans’ assertion that they can’t be sure elections officials are complying with guidance issued by Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat.
The justice handles emergency appeals from Pennsylvania. He ordered a response from the state by Saturday afternoon and said he has referred the matter to the full court for further action.
The order is related to an ongoing Republican appeal to the Supreme Court to try to keep ballots received in the mail after Election Day from being counted. The state’s top court granted a three-day extension, and the Supreme Court refused to block it.
Biden’s lead over Trump is growing in battleground Pennsylvania.
By Friday evening, the Democrat held a lead of over 19,500 votes out of more than 6.5 million ballots cast. That’s an edge of about 0.29%. State law dictates that a recount must be held if the margin between the two candidates is less than 0.5%.
The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the state.
The Pennsylvania secretary of state’s website said Friday that there were 102,541 more mail ballots that needed to be counted, including many from Allegheny County, a Democratic area that is home to Pittsburgh, and the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia County.
Additionally, there are potentially tens of thousands of provisional ballots that remain to be tabulated, though an exact number remained unclear. Those ballots will be counted after officials verify their eligibility to be included.
Pennsylvania is among a handful of battleground states that Trump and Biden are narrowly contesting as they seek the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.