WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a handful of cases related to the 2020 presidential election, including disputes in Pennsylvania that had caused a deep division among justices shortly before the election.
The cases the justices rejected involved election challenges brought by former President Donald Trump and his partners in five states where President Joe Biden won: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
With the exception of the two Pennsylvania disputes, the magistrates’ decision not to hear the cases was not surprising, although it does end months of legal wrangling.
The highest US court had not taken any action in those cases, and in January it had rejected requests that the process of the cases be expedited, again indicating that the magistrates were not interested in hearing them.
However, some of the judges were highly critical of the court’s decision not to hear two Pennsylvania cases that had been particularly contentious in the state.
The cases involved an appeal of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision requiring election officials to receive and count mailed votes that arrived up to three days after the election.
The Republican senator from South Carolina sent a strong message to Vice President Mike Pence: “You are going to do the right thing, the constitutional thing.”
Three of the nine magistrates said they would have heard the case, which would not have affected the outcome of the elections.
Judge Clarence Thomas noted that the cases were the “perfect opportunity” to address an important question about whether legislators or state courts have the final say on how federal elections are conducted.
And he commented that it was “disconcerting” and “inexplicable” that his colleagues refused to intervene.
He said that the electoral result cannot be reversed.
“We were unable to resolve this dispute before the elections, and thus provide clear rules. Now again we do not provide clear rules for future elections. The decision to leave the electoral law hidden under a cloak of doubt is puzzling. By doing nothing, we invite further confusion and erosion of voter confidence, ”the magistrate wrote.
Thomas cited the expansion of vote-by-mail as another reason to take the case, noting that “fraud is more prevalent with votes sent by mail.” Trump had made claims of massive fraud in the widespread use of vote-by-mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the courts have found no evidence to support those claims.
For their part, Pennsylvania lawmakers modified the state’s election laws in response to the pandemic, but left the Nov.3 deadline in effect for receiving mailed votes.
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Democrats sued, and Pennsylvania’s highest court cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and delays for the nation’s Postal Service to extend the period to receive votes by mail.
Republicans had asked the federal Supreme Court to suspend that extension before the election.
But in October, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and before Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed for the job, the justices voted 4-4 on the issue, keeping the three-day extension in effect to continue receiving votes. .
In practice, however, due to the ongoing trial, those late-arriving ballots were separated and have yet to be counted.
The state has said that ultimately fewer than 10,000 ballots were received during those three days. That small number of ballots would not have altered the outcome of the state’s presidential election, which Trump lost by about 80,000 votes.
Pennsylvania officials had argued the case was irrelevant because the state’s election results had already been certified.
Republicans argued that justices should take up the case to provide guidance for future elections. In addition to Thomas, two other judges – Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – agreed with this last argument.