As most readers are by now aware, the Supreme Court refused to proceed with challenges by President Trump and the Republican Party to the outcome of certain states’ elections in November 2020.
Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania had clashed in court over the three-day extension. Democrats contended that the coronavirus pandemic was sufficient reason to extend the deadline to accommodate a significant expansion of mail-in voting. The state Supreme Court agreed, granting the extension over the objection of the Republican-controlled legislature.
Republicans argued that extending the deadline violated the Constitution and federal law and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state court’s ruling.
There’s more at the link.
To me, the biggest problem with SCOTUS’ decision is that it leaves US voters out in the cold. The court refused to intervene prior to the results of the election being announced; but, now that they have been announced, it states that it would be “moot” to intervene at this point. In other words, there is no avenue of jurisprudence available to voters like you and I to challenge such results. As SCOTUS would put it, we “lack standing” before the fact, and our challenge would serve no purpose after the fact.
Justice Thomas expressed this dilemma well in his dissent.
“The Constitution gives to each state legislature authority to determine the ‘Manner’ of federal elections… Yet both before and after the 2020 election, nonlegislative officials in various States took it upon themselves to set the rules instead. As a result, we received an unusually high number of petitions and emergency applications contesting those changes. The petitions here present a clear example. The Pennsylvania Legislature established an unambiguous deadline for receiving mail-in ballots: 8 p.m. on election day,” Thomas wrote. “Dissatisfied, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended that deadline by three days. The court also ordered officials to count ballots received by the new deadline even if there was no evidence—such as a postmark—that the ballots were mailed by election day. That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future. These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority nonlegislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.
“One wonders what this Court waits for. We failed to settle this dispute before the election, and thus provide clear rules. Now we again fail to provide clear rules for future elections. The decision to leave election law hidden beneath a shroud of doubt is baffling. By doing nothing, we invite further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our fellow citizens deserve better and expect more of us,” he continued.
Again, more at the link.
I think Justice Thomas is exactly right. SCOTUS had a golden opportunity to clarify an important point of law – and failed. It punted, rather than settle the matter. That means the next time there are such disagreements, those challenging the results will believe, right from the start, that they’re going to be cheated out of a fair, honest and trustworthy election, and that the courts will do nothing to stop this.