Washington (CBS NEWS) — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a pair of legal challenges to Pennsylvania’s election rules mounted by former President Donald Trump’s GOP allies, closing the book on Mr. Trump’s efforts to contest the outcome of the presidential election.
The court rejected the cases as moot, as President Biden has been sworn in as the nation’s 46th president and Mr. Trump is no longer in office. In addition to declining to take up the two cases involving Pennsylvania’s deadline for mail-in ballots, the Supreme Court also rejected election-related disputes from Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin with no noted dissents.
Republicans appealed a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that extended the deadline for mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received up to three days after the election. In turning away the cases, the state high court’s ruling remains intact. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have heard the cases.
In his dissent, Thomas said the Supreme Court has the opportunity to address the issue of “nonlegislative officials” changing election rules well before the next election and called the court’s refusal to hear the disputes “befuddling.”
“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. “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, in which he said he agreed the cases should be heard, and 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.”
The Supreme Court in October declined a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to speed-up review of the case, effectively foreclosing action before the November 3 election. At the time, however, it left open the possibility of revisiting the dispute after Election Day.
The president and Republicans looked to the high court to help deliver Mr. Trump a second term in the White House after Mr. Biden was declared the winner, asking the justices to take up numerous disputes that sought to halt the certification of election results from key battleground states.
But the Supreme Court appeared not to have an appetite to wade into the disputes — it rejected requests to fast-track cases that took aim at the election results in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania and spurned other challenges to the outcome of the election in those four states.