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NC absentee rules could be among Barrett's first cases on Supreme Court

Posted October 26, 2020 6:50 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2020 7:30 p.m. EDT

— Judge Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court justice shortly after the U.S. Senate confirms her nomination on Monday night, and a North Carolina case could be among the first before the court with her as a member.

Absentee ballots have been the focus of a fierce legal fight in North Carolina for weeks, following the State Board of Elections' decision to try to settle some lawsuits by changing the rules for voting by mail. While courts have dealt with the problem of fixing ballots that were mailed without the required witness signature, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals didn't act on a delayed deadline for accepting mailed ballots.

Under state law, an absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and received within three days after that – Nov. 6 this year – to count. But the state board agreed to push that deadline back to Nov. 12 after voting rights groups argued that an avalanche of mailed ballots this year could lead to slower deliveries by the U.S. Postal Service.

Republican state lawmakers have intervened in the lawsuit and asked the Supreme Court to rule on it.

"That’s a case the court is going to have to address very soon," said April Dawson, a law professor at North Carolina Central University.

"The Supreme Court is going to have to decide whether what the State Board of Elections has done by agreeing to settle that lawsuit and giving the left-wing organizations everything they want, whether that violates the United States Constitution's elections clause," agreed Greg Wallace, a professor at Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law.

"Whether it’ll be three days as provided under current law or whether it will be extended six more days for a total of nine, that’s going to be a fairly significant decision and could be the first indication of where the new Associate Justice Barrett is going to fall," Wallace added.

As for other cases Barrett may see from North Carolina once she’s on the court, experts said it’s too early to tell.

"North Carolina will typically have cases that the Supreme Court hears often times related to criminal procedure,” Dawson said.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in two weeks, which "will have an impact certainly on North Carolina residents," she said.

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