Supreme Court rejects bid by Trump allies to overturn Pennsylvania election result

The Republican-led effort fell flat under the scrutiny of the judicial system

"Million MAGA March" protesters crowd the street in front of the Supreme Court building to hear speeches in Washington on Nov. 14.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
"Million MAGA March" protesters crowd the street in front of the Supreme Court building to hear speeches in Washington on Nov. 14. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 8, 2020 at 5:44pm

The Supreme Court denied a long-shot petition from President Donald Trump’s allies Tuesday to contest Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot law and change the outcome of the commonwealth’s presidential election.

After a flurry of filings in the case over the past few days, including an amicus brief from some of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, the court took only one line to reject what one election law expert dubbed “Perhaps the Dumbest Argument Ever Made in Emergency Petition to the Supreme Court.”

In doing so, the court also denied the country a chance to see Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz make that argument before the Supreme Court.

The former Lone Star State solicitor general said Monday that he “will stand ready to present the oral argument” if the justices accepted the case.

But, as with case after case brought by Trump’s legal team or those seeking to otherwise overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in key states, the Republican-led effort fell flat under the scrutiny of the judicial system.

The appeal came from Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly and other Trump allies, in a lawsuit they filed to challenge a 2019 state law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that allowed voters to cast mail-in ballots for any reason.

The lawsuit sought to invalidate all mail-in ballots from the 2020 election or direct the state legislature to appoint its own slate of presidential electors — a result meant to deny President-elect Joe Biden the state’s 20 electoral votes even though he won the state by 81,660 votes.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit in a three-page ruling, essentially because it was filed too late. The state’s mail-in voting law had been in place for more than a year at that point, and had already been used in the June primary elections and November general elections.

The state Supreme Court also pointed out that the Republicans sought an outcome that would “result in the disenfranchisement of millions of Pennsylvania voters.”

Pennsylvania officials, in a response at the U.S. Supreme Court, said the petition asked the justices “to undertake one of the most dramatic, disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the Republic. No court has ever issued an order nullifying a governor’s certification of presidential election results.”

The state officials listed legal reasons why the lawsuit's claims were “fundamentally frivolous” and “mired in procedural and jurisdictional defects.”

“Their suit is nothing less than an affront to constitutional democracy. It should meet a swift and decisive end,” the Pennsylvania response stated.

In a brief in the case, 23 members of the House including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, asked the court to agree to decide the issue because of the “cynicism and rot” of Pennsylvania’s actions in the law and what they called a lack of judicial review of it.

The lawmaker brief stated that as members of Congress they “have been firsthand witnesses to the increasing stridency and polarization that plague our political processes” and are deeply concerned that the justices passing on this case would mean “the Nation’s political discourse will simply spiral further downward.”

“At this critical juncture in the Nation’s history, the Court should sew the stich [sic] in time that could well save many more down the road,” the brief stated.

The court's word on it: "The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied."