The Supreme Court has rejected Donald Trump's bid to prevent absentee ballots in North Carolina from being counted up to nine days after the election.
The Trump campaign, RNC and local Republicans had been fighting a lower court-approved extension of the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots to November 12 - provided they were postmarked by election day.
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the extension came two days after Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed. Barrett did not participate in the court's decision.
North Carolina State Board of Elections had extended its normal deadline by six days after a lawsuit was brought by voting rights groups, citing difficulties and delays in mail deliveries brought by the pandemic.
Trump's staff and Republicans said that this was a 'backroom deal' that contradicted the rules set down in a separate bipartisan agreement by lawmakers in Raleigh.
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport on Wednesday
A voter turns sideways as he eyes the opening of a ballot drop box before placing his ballot inside it Wednesday, in Seattle
They also argued that the extension paved the way for voter fraud – a narrative frequently discussed by the president.
Justice Neil Gorsuch noted that just days earlier the court gave Republicans victory in a dispute over an extension in Wisconsin.
He said that in that case it was decided that state legislatures should rule on how their votes are counted and so in the case of North Carolina, the local lawmakers should decide not the court.
It comes amid the most litigious presidential election in recent history, with court battles waged by Democrats and Republicans over a range of issues including how near guns can be brought to polling places and where poll watchers may stand.
Roughly 300 lawsuits have been filed over the election in dozens of states across the country, and still scores remain unsettled just days before Election Day.
Many involve changes to normal procedures given the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 228,000 people in the U.S. and sickened more than 8.8 million.
The campaigns of Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, have been quietly building armies of lawyers preparing for the possibility of a drawn-out legal fight that lands at the Supreme Court.
Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of the few Supreme Court justices to detail his reasoning on the decision
'The level of litigation has just been so unprecedented,' said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project.
'It does feel like there's a desire to elevate any possible thing. Possible misunderstandings or just disagreements with what the rules are is somehow ending up in court. It feels very different.'
The latest focus for Republicans in some places is on poll watchers, who are volunteers for candidates or political parties long used in elections.
They monitor voting places and local election offices and make note of potential problems as a way to challenge the voting or tabulating process.
The role of poll watchers or challengers has gained increased attention this year as Trump has pushed unfounded claims about the potential for voter fraud because of an increase in mailed-in ballots.
Trump has been urging his supporters to go to the polls and 'watch very carefully,' raising concerns about possible voter intimidation.
He has also falsely stated that poll watchers were 'thrown out' of a polling site in Philadelphia, where he has claimed without evidence that 'bad things' are happening.
In Nevada, Trump's campaign and state