A longtime conservative, Thomas’ legal opinions naturally aligned with the Trump administration. But his dissent is distinguished by his adherence to Trump’s world view of fraud, a notion denied by electoral law experts and which has overwhelmingly failed in dozens of challenges in state and federal courts.
“We are fortunate that many of the cases we have seen involve only inappropriate rule changes, not fraud. But this observation only provides little comfort,” said Thomas, a dissenter as the court dismissed a challenge of Pennsylvania’s long-standing postal voting procedures. .
“An election without strong evidence of systemic fraud alone is not sufficient for electoral confidence,” Thomas wrote.
In his 11-page dissent on Monday, Thomas spoke 10 times about “fraud” and pointed to alleged flaws in the ballots that arrive in the mail. He said their review can be particularly subjective, for example on the validity of signatures, and force state officials to sift through millions of ballots. Each state determines its own electoral procedures, for voting in person or by mail, within the framework of the guarantees of the federal law on the right to vote and of the Constitution.
“The decision to leave the electoral law hidden under a veil of doubt is disconcerting,” he wrote. “By doing nothing we are causing further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our citizens deserve better and expect more from us.”
The 2020 election, which took place amid the coronavirus pandemic, increased postal voting and then led to a series of lawsuits, ending with no evidence of electoral fraud, not to mention widespread cheating that could have been overturn the election result.
Trump supporters, who lost the Nov. 3 presidential race to Joe Biden, have claimed rampant fraud and a “stolen” election, without evidence.
“Many of us are suffering, after leaving everything on the ground, to preserve the best of this country,” she wrote in a post-election email.
“Look, Joe Biden is the president, there were a few states that didn’t follow their state laws, this is really the dispute you’ve seen going on,” he said on ABC “This week “. “Once the voters are counted, yes, he is the legitimate president. But if you want to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own laws established by law, that is the problem. in the heart.”
Election experts reject the claims, and former Trump-appointed attorney general William Barr said in December that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Thomas, appointed in 1991 by GOP President George HW Bush, made it clear in written opinions and statements during oral argument that he believed Trump and his administration were being unfairly targeted in litigation.
The constitutional question with Pennsylvania
The Supreme Court has generally avoided Trump’s election controversies, and although Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented and said the majority should hear the dispute in Pennsylvania to clarify the rules for the future, they declined to mention fraud or electoral irregularities on the ground and did not do so. join Thomas’ dissent.
The legal question centered on the power of a state court to change electoral rules. Alito and Gorsuch insisted the open question should be resolved, especially because it could arise in future elections. Thomas went further by suggesting that the GOP challengers might win their case.
“Because the Federal Constitution, not state constitutions, gives state legislatures the power to regulate federal elections,” Thomas wrote, “the petitioners made a strong argument that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling violated the Constitution by going beyond the clearly expressed intention of the legislature. ”
Thomas observed that the state court decision involved too few ballots to affect the outcome of a federal election. “But that may not be the case in the future,” he said, reinforcing his broader argument about electoral integrity.
“An electoral system lacks clear rules when, like here, different officials are arguing over who has the power to set or change those rules,” Thomas wrote. “This kind of dispute is confusing because voters may not know what rules to follow. Worse yet … the running candidates could each declare victory under different rules.”
Pennsylvania state election officials enforced the state court deadline and, under a prior court order, separated the late ballots, of which there were only about 10 000, according to the office of the secretary of state.
“If state officials have the authority they claim, we have to make it clear,” said Thomas. “Otherwise, we must end this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic.”
The majority of the court may have believed the dispute was no longer legally relevant or found it too politically difficult to hear, even with the 2020 election over. After sitting at the trial for four months, none of the majority judges explained their reasoning.