Trump Asks Top Court to Bar Late-Arriving Pennsylvania Votes
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s campaign moved to intervene in a pending U.S. Supreme Court clash over late-arriving mail ballots in Pennsylvania, seeking to enlist the high court’s immediate help in the disputed election.
The new filing seeks to block an unspecified number of ballots, potentially tens of thousands, that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said would count as long as they are mailed by Tuesday and arrive by Friday.
“Given last night’s results, the vote in Pennsylvania may well determine the next president of the United States,” Trump’s lawyers argued in papers filed Wednesday. “And this court, not the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, should have the final say on the relevant and dispositive legal questions.”
The court quickly asked Pennsylvania Democrats to respond by 5 p.m. Washington time Thursday to Trump’s request to take part in the case.
Pennsylvania is one of five states that have yet to be called as decided for one candidate or another by at least some news organizations. Although Trump is ahead there, hundreds of thousands of ballots in Democrat-heavy parts of the state have yet to be counted. The Supreme Court case doesn’t involve ballots that arrived by Election Day and haven’t yet been counted.
The Supreme Court previously left the extension in place with a 4-4 vote, and Republicans are seeking to reverse that outcome now that Trump-appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett is on the court. The Supreme Court on Oct. 28 refused to fast-track the case for a decision before Election Day but left open the possibility of taking it up later.
In a statement that accompanied the Oct. 28 order, conservative Justice Samuel Alito lamented that voting would be “conducted under a cloud.” But he agreed that the issue couldn’t be resolved before the Nov. 3 election, and said the high court could still take up the matter later.
Two other conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joined Alito’s statement, but the court as a whole gave no explanation.
Pennsylvania officials have said they will segregate the late-arriving ballots. That step would make it feasible for the Supreme Court to declare those votes invalid.
Pennsylvania law says ballots must be received by Election Day, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline because of the pandemic and expected mail delays. The court based the extension on a state constitutional clause that guarantees a “free and equal” election.
Pennsylvania Republicans contend the state court violated a U.S. constitutional provision that says state legislatures get to set the rules for the presidential election.
The Trump campaign is seeking to take command of two pending appeals, one filed by the Pennsylvania Republican Party and one filed by two GOP state lawmakers. That type of intervention is an unusual step at the nation’s highest court, but one Trump says is warranted given his “direct, concrete stake in the outcome.”
The cases are Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, 20-542, and Scarnati v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party, 20-574.
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