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Supreme Court Dismisses Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Vote

People participate in a “Stop the Steal” protest outside the Supreme Court in support of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., December 8, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, in spite of arguments from President Trump’s allies that the state’s expansion of mail-in voting was illegal.

The Court issued a one-sentence denial with no noted dissents — including among the three Trump-appointed justices. The order upheld a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which earlier found that the challenge to a 2019 state law — Act 77, which included the first authorization of wide-scale mail-in voting in the state — came too late. 

Representative Mike Kelly (R., Pa.) led the challenge, arguing that the state legislature’s expansion of absentee voting violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. The group claimed it was “an unconstitutional, no-excuse absentee voting scheme.”

“Pennsylvania’s General Assembly exceeded its powers by unconstitutionally allowing no-excuse absentee voting, including for federal offices, in the election,” the group argued in court filings. The group concluded that as a result, the election was “conducted illegally.”

The group requested an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court to stop any remaining steps in the state’s election results certification process from going forward. The certification occurred two weeks ago, when Democratic Governor Thomas Wolf certified the results showing that Biden bested Trump in the state by 80,555 votes.

In Late November the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that in waiting to file the complaint until November 21, 2020, “millions of Pennsylvania voters had already expressed their will in both the June 2020 primary election and the November 2020 general election.”

“Petitioners failed to act with due diligence in presenting the instant claim,” the court said. “Equally clear is the substantial prejudice arising from petitioners’ failure to institute promptly a facial challenge to the mail-in voting statutory scheme, as such inaction would result in the disenfranchisement of millions of Pennsylvania voters.”

Attorneys for the state on Tuesday accused the challengers of asking the Court to undertake “one of the most dramatic, disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the Republic.”

“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,” they argued. “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.”

The Trump campaign also filed suit in Pennsylvania federal courts to block or rescind certification of the state’s election results, though two lower federal courts said the campaign lacked legal standing and specific allegations or evidence.

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