Residents line up outside the Montgomery County, Pa., Voter Services office, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Norristown, Pa. Monday…
Residents line up outside the Montgomery County, Pa., Voter Services office, Oct. 19, 2020, in Norristown, Pa.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed an extension of the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 3 election, declining a Republican request to block a lower court's ruling that gave voters more time.

The justices, divided 4-4, left in place a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in favor of state Democrats that had extended the deadline for state election officials to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by the evening of Election Day until three days afterward.

The brief court order noted that four of the court's five conservative justices would have granted the request. There are currently only eight justices on the usually nine-member court because of the death last month of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which left the court with a 5-3 conservative majority.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in denying the request, with five votes needed for it to be granted.

The state Republican Party and Republican officials in Pennsylvania separately appealed the state Supreme Court ruling as they sought to tighten deadlines for mail-in ballots.

Pennsylvania is an election battleground state as President Donald Trump seeks a second term in office. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 but is trailing Democratic opponent Joe Biden in opinion polls this year.

In a Sept. 17 ruling, the state high court ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and various Democratic officials and candidates who had asked for the court to protect voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted an increase in requests for mail-in ballots.

The Democrats also raised concerns about whether the U.S. Postal Service, led by a Trump ally, would be able to handle the surge of ballots in a timely manner.

Democrat Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state, backed a three-day extension.

What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.