Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued an aggressive dissenting opinion regarding the high court’s questionable decision to not take up a case challenging the Pennsylvania Nov. 3 election results.
The court announced on Monday it will not take up lawsuits challenging a Pennsylvania state court decision that relaxed ballot-integrity measures, including a move to extend the ballot-receipt deadline during the November election by three days.
Former President Donald Trump and Pennsylvania’s GOP urged the court to take up a review of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling.
Thomas warned on Monday that the decision was “not a prescription for confidence,” arguing that the court should have at the very least granted a review to be certain.
“One wonders what the Court waits for,” Thomas wrote. “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. 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. I respectfully dissent.”
While Thomas acknowledged that this case would not alter the outcome of the 2020 election, he warned of the future problems that could arise from the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore the glaring election issues.
“We are fortunate that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to change the receipt deadline for mail-in ballots does not appear to have changed the outcome in any federal election. This Court ordered the county boards to segregate ballots received later than the deadline set by the legislature. Order in Republican Party of Pa. v. Boockvar, No. 20A84. And none of the parties contend that those ballots made an outcome-determinative difference in any relevant federal election.”
“But we may not be so lucky in the future. Indeed, a separate decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may have already altered an election result,” he said, going on to mention a state Senate race.
“That is not a prescription for confidence,” Thomas continued. “Changing the rules in the middle of the game is bad enough. Such rule changes by officials who may lack authority to do so is even worse. When those changes alter election results, they can severely damage the electoral system on which our self-governance so heavily depends. If state officials have the authority they have claimed, we need to make it clear. If not, we need to put an end to this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic.”
“That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future,” Thomas wrote. “These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority nonlegislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”
“If state officials have the authority they have claimed, we need to make it clear. If not, we need to put an end to this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic,” Thomas also wrote.
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also dissented.
“There is ‘reasonable expectation’ that the parties will face the same question in the future,” Alito wrote in his dissent, echoing Thomas’ warning about potential future problems. “And that the question will evade future pre-election review, just as it did in these cases.”