WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a dispute over whether absentee ballots received up to three days after Election Day in Pennsylvania should have been counted in the 2020 presidential election.
In a decision that split the court and prompted dissents from three conservative justices, the high court shut down a challenge from Pennsylvania Republicans who sought to block a state court ruling that allowed the deadline extension. But even the dissenting justices acknowledged the legal questions in the case would not have affected the outcome of the November election.
Republicans argued the extension was improper because it was not approved by the state legislature and they have raised questions about the impact on future elections.
“That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election,” Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent. “But that may not be the case in the future.”
Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also would have heard the cases, one shy of the four votes needed for Supreme Court to accept an appeal.
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Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania had clashed in court over the three-day extension. Democrats contended that the coronavirus pandemic was sufficient reason to extend the deadline to accommodate a significant expansion of mail-in voting. The state Supreme Court agreed, granting the extension over the objection of the Republican-controlled legislature.
Republicans argued that extending the deadline violated the Constitution and federal law and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state court’s ruling.
In late October, just days before Election Day, the high court rebuffed Republicans’ 11th-hour request to intercede, allowing ballots received by Nov. 6 to be counted, as ordered by the state court But the ballots were segregated from those received on Election Day, which meant the high court could hear the case after the election.
Trump and his allies filed dozens of lawsuits in Pennsylvania and several other battleground states seeking to flip the results in his favor. But claims of widespread fraud and irregularities were rejected by state and federal judges, some of whom were appointed by Trump.
More:Supreme Court leaves in place Pennsylvania’s Nov. 6 deadline for return of absentee ballots
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In December, the nation’s highest court blocked a long-shot bid by Texas to challenge the results in four battleground states. The state failed to show a “judicially cognizable interest” in how other states conduct their elections, the court said in a brief order.
The same month, the Supreme Court rejected an effort to block Pennsylvania from finalizing Biden’s victory in the state, despite allegations from Trump’s allies that the state’s wholesale expansion of mail-in voting was illegal.
After weeks of falsely claiming the election had been stolen from him, Trumpfinally acknowledged Biden’s victory and called for a “smooth” transition of power. The significant messaging shift came as Trump faced mounting criticism over his handling of the violence that erupted Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
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Contributing: Rich Wolf