The judges offered no public explanation for their dismissal of the cases, but a member of the court, Justice Clarence Thomas, expressed his dissent. He said the court should have granted a review, even if the dispute was indeed moot, and he took a peek at his colleagues for the decision to dismiss the cases.
“This decision to rewrite the rules appears to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of a federal election. But that may not be the case in the future, ”Thomas wrote. “These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address what authority non-legislative officials have to set electoral rules, and to do so well in advance of the next electoral cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable. “
Before and after last fall’s election, Trump and GOP officials attempted to get the U.S. Supreme Court to fight in Pennsylvania, a request that judges repeatedly denied.
On October 19, judges blocked 4-4 on a suspension request that would have blocked the three-day extension. A little over a week later, the judges unanimously refused to hear the dispute on an expedited basis, but Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch expressed serious doubts about the action of the High Court of Pennsylvania. Newly sworn-in judge Amy Coney Barrett chose not to participate in the vote, saying she had not had enough time to consider the matter.
And in December, judges acted without noted dissent to turn down an offer from Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) To overturn Biden’s victory in the state.
Lawyers for the GOP argued that the state Supreme Court’s action violated language in the U.S. Constitution which states that state legislatures control each state’s method of selecting presidential voters.
Democratic lawyers have argued that once the basic selection method has been chosen by lawmakers, adjustments to that procedure by the courts do not go against the U.S. Constitution, especially during an emergency. such as the coronavirus epidemic.
The Pennsylvania High Court decision, handed down on a 4-3 vote, required that the ballots appear to have been mailed or postmarked before election day, but allowed them to be received until 5 p.m. the following Friday. The majority justices expressed concern both about the impact of the virus and the widespread delays at the US Postal Service.
It is not known why the United States Supreme Court dismissed the election cases in Pennsylvania, as only four justices are needed to grant a review in a case and four justices thought the state court decision was so out of hand. remarks they voted in October to block it in an emergency. One possibility is that they decided the dispute was moot because of Biden’s margin of victory and because his victory in the wider constituency meant Pennsylvania’s votes were not crucial.
Thomas said this approach was wrong.
“If state officials have the authority they claim, we need to make that clear. Otherwise, we must end this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic, ”he wrote.
Thomas, appointed by former President George HW Bush, also appeared to allude to Trump’s fraud allegations, suggesting concerns about such abuse are legitimate.
“We are fortunate that many of the cases we have seen involved only inappropriate rule changes, not fraud,” Thomas wrote. “But this observation only brings a little comfort. An election without strong evidence of systemic fraud alone is not sufficient for electoral confidence. It is also important to ensure that the fraud does not go unnoticed. “
The Supreme Court has at least one more chance to get involved in a case related to the 2020 presidential election. Trump still has a pending application to the judges to weigh in on his unsuccessful challenge to the changes ordered by the Wisconsin Election Commission in that state, including the use of ballot boxes. This case is being discussed at the closed-door judges’ conference on March 5.