Tens of thousands of mail ballots that arrived after the April 7 presidential primaries and spring elections were counted by local officials, a review by The Washington Post has found — the unexpected result of last-minute intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court.
…Because of the order, election officials for the first time tallied absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day, rather than just those received by then — underscoring the power of narrow court decisions to significantly shape which votes are counted.
…Fewer votes were counted than if the lower courts’ orders had remained in place. But the Supreme Court’s decision superseded the stricter existing law, expanding the universe of valid ballots compared with previous elections.
…In Wisconsin, the Supreme Court’s ruling opened the door to a surge of valid absentee ballots that officials would have otherwise rejected under a state law requiring them to be received by Election Day.
…In Milwaukee and Madison alone, the state’s two largest cities, more than 10 percent of all votes counted, nearly 21,000 ballots, arrived by mail after April 7, according to data provided by local election officials.
…In addition to seeking postmarked-by standards, Democrats are aiming to secure free postage for ballots, ballot mailings to all registered voters and the right for third parties to collect ballots from voters, a controversial practice often called ballot harvesting.
…The stakes are high: Research has found that rules such as strict Election Day receipt of ballots disproportionately affect young and minority voters, who in turn vote heavily for Democratic candidates. And the rejection rates vary widely from place to place — meaning that inconsistent election administration is the likelier culprit than voter error.