Justice Clarence Thomas has dissented from the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear cases relating to allegations of election fraud in Pennsylvania. He was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, who also said they would have heard the cases.
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear two legal challenges to Pennsylvania's election rules, mounted by the Republican party in support of former President Donald Trump. The decision effectively shuts down Trump’s efforts to contest the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
The Supreme Court rejected the cases as moot, as President Biden has already been sworn in as president and Trump is no longer in office. In addition to rejecting the two cases, which involved Pennsylvania’s deadline for mail-in ballots, the court also rejected cases from Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Washington with no noted dissents, reports CBS.
Addressing the ruling, Thomas said that the Supreme Court had the opportunity to address the issue of “nonlegislative officials” altering election rules before the next presidential election. He described the refusal to hear the disputes as “befuddling.”
“The Constitution gives to each state legislature authority to determine the ‘Manner’ of federal elections. Art. § 4, cl. 1; Art. II, § 1, cl 2. 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,” wrote Thomas.
“The Pennsylvania Legislature established an unambiguous deadline for receiving mail-in ballots: 8 p.m. on election day,” Thomas continued. “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,” he added. “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.”
"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," Thomas wrote in his dissent. "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."
Alito filed a separate dissent, which was joined by Gorsuch.
"A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election," Alito wrote. "But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections."
In October, the Supreme Court declined a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to speed up the case, foreclosing the possibility of action before the Nov. 3 election.