The Supreme Court has rejected a bid by Pennsylvania Republicans to nullify the 2020 presidential election results that certified Joe Biden the victory and the 20 electors in the Keystone State.
In the denial Tuesday afternoon, the one-line order was issued with no noted dissents or recusals and was unsigned by any of the nine justices. The move leaves intact the ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the Pennsylvania election certification signed in late November from Gov. Tom Wolf (D) certifying Biden the winner of the state.
Biden won the state by over 80,000 votes, mostly from the overwhelming mail-in ballots. More than one-third of Pennsylvania residents voted by mail in the 2020 election. According to an analysis of Pennsylvania Department of State data by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Biden won three of every four mail-in ballots cast in the state.
The lawsuit led by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Sean Parnell, former GOP congressional candidate who lost to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) sought to strike down an expanded mail-in ballot policy that Pennsylvania put in place in 2019. They argued that the state statute Act 77 violates both the state and federal Constitution because it allowed for “no-excuse mail-in” votes on a larger scale. According to Act 77, it allows people who vote by mail up to 50 days before the election without a stated reason, previously required to receive an absentee ballot.
They cited that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law was unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions and that the results of last month’s vote should therefore be invalidated.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed the case late last month, citing Kelly and other litigants bringing the suit failed to file their challenge in a timely manner. Pennsylvania officials called the petition “fundamentally frivolous.”
“No court has ever issued an order nullifying a governor’s certification of presidential election results,” J. Bart Delone, Pennsylvania chief deputy Attorney General argued in a brief. “The loss of public trust in our constitutional order resulting in this kind of judicial power would be incalculable.”
Attorneys for the state and Wolf’s administration responded to the emergency petition accusing Kelly and other GOP plaintiffs of attempting a “dramatic, disruptive invocation of judicial power” with the request for the high court to overturn Biden’s win in the state.
“Granting an injunction would sow chaos and confusion across the Nation while inflaming baseless concerns about electoral impropriety and ensnaring the Judiciary in partisan strife,” lawyers representing Pennsylvania wrote in a brief early Tuesday opposing Kelly’s request. “This case reaches the Court against the backdrop of unfounded claims — which have been repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts — that wrongly impugn the integrity of the democratic process and aim to cast doubt on the legitimacy of its outcome.”
“After waiting over a year to challenge Act 77, and engaging in procedural gamesmanship along the way, they come to this court with unclean hands and ask it to disenfranchise an entire state,” the brief added. “They make that request without any acknowledgment of the staggering upheaval, turmoil, and acrimony it would unleash… Their suit is nothing less than an affront to constitutional democracy.”
Republicans pleaded with the Supreme Court to intervene immediately after last week. Lawyers for Kelly argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated his “right to petition and right to due process, guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, respectively, by closing all avenues of relief for past and future harms.”
In the lawsuit, Kelly sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) offered to argue the case, if the high court took it.
The emergency petition was addressed to Justice Samuel Alito, who has jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania courts. He referred it to the whole court on the matter instead of acting on the request alone, which issued the one-line denial order. Alito briefly gave Republicans hope for the case on Sunday when he ordered that the requirements for Pennsylvania to respond be moved from Wednesday to Tuesday, giving the court a chance to weigh in before the cutoff.
Earlier Tuesday the state of Texas filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against four battleground states in an effort to halt presidential electors from finalizing Biden’s victory. Texas filing similar to Pennsylvania suit argued that electors from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin should not be allowed to cast their votes in part because those states unconstitutionally changed their voting procedures during the coronavirus pandemic to allow for increased mail-in ballots.
“Their failure to abide by the rule of law casts a dark shadow of doubt over the outcome of the entire election,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “We now ask that the Supreme Court step in to correct this egregious error.”
The high court’s decision came just as the Dec. 8 “safe harbor deadline” deadline for the state under federal law. Other than Wisconsin, every state appears to have met the safe harbor deadline, which means Congress has to accept the electoral votes that will be cast next week and sent to the Capitol for counting on Jan. 6 where they will vote for Biden as the next president.