The deadline for receipt of mail ballots in North Carolina’s 2020 presidential election was extended nine days by the board of elections after the deadline was disputed in court. Republican state leadership attempted to block this change to the state’s election administration, but were denied relief by the 4th Circuit and the Supreme Court.
The summer before the 2020 presidential election a group of North Carolina voters and the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans (“NCARA”) sued the North Carolina board of elections that challenged the deadline for the reception of mail ballots of November 6, three days after Election Day. The case was settled, and the state court approved a consent agreement between the NCARA and the state board of elections, which voted to extend the mail ballot reception deadline to November 12.
Moore, the Republican speaker of North Carolina’s House of Representatives, sought a restraining order to enjoin the extended mail ballot deadline, alleging that the board of elections was “usurp[ing] the state General Assembly’s prerogative to regulate federal elections in the North Carolina.” Ultimately, however, the extension went into effect.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied Moore’s request for relief and upheld the deadline extension, indicating in a separate statements that the change to the state’s election law would not result in any unequal evaluation of ballots. Dissenting judges would have blocked the extension while Moore and the other Republican state leaders appealed, objecting to what they considered to be an inappropriate upending of the state’s election rules while the election was ongoing.
On October 22 Donald Trump’s campaign joined North Carolina Republicans in bringing the matter before the Supreme Court asking that the 4th Circuit’s ruling be put on hold, asking for a review of the merits as soon as possible. However, the application for stay was denied the following week without explanation, with Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch opposing the denial, and Justice Barrett taking no part in the consideration or decision.