The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Republican request to block a directive issued by Gov. Steve Bullock allowing counties to conduct all-mail ballots for the November election.
Lower courts have already upheld the state directive, which was issued in August to protect voters and workers during the pandemic.
Raph Graybill, lead counsel in the case and the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, praised the high court’s decision.
“No Montanan should have to choose between their vote and exposure to COVID-19,” Graybill said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a victory for democracy, secure voting and common sense. The pandemic has produced intense challenges for Montana, and I’m honored to have fought for Montanans’ right to vote safely and securely by mail.”
The decision comes as a relief to county elections officials, as ballots were set to go out on Friday. Had the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republican challengers, stopping and reversing course would have required “a bit of a pivot,” according to one Missoula County official.
Republican challengers contended that Bullock lacked the authority to issue his directive allowing counties to choose whether they want to hold all-mail elections. The Trump campaign and national Republicans, who also joined the suit, argued that an all-mail ballot opens the door to voter fraud.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who has jurisdiction over the lower court involved in the case, turned down the Republican request without referring the petition to her colleagues or asking the other side for its views, according to CNN.
Graybill led the state’s defense and its decision to use mail ballots at a trial before Judge Dana Christensen at the U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula on Sept. 26. Christensen ruled for the state.
Earlier this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected a subsequent request by GOP groups to stop mail balloting on appeal. The challengers went to the Supreme Court on Monday and the court’s decision was released on Thursday.