On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down cases challenging the 2020 election in Pennsylvania that took issue with the manner in which the state processed their mail-in ballots.
While the court did not issue a public explanation for why the cases were passed over, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a scathing dissent in which he argued, however moot the case may be as relates to who is in the White House currently, the issue of mail-in ballots and who has the authority to change election laws is of the utmost importance.
As Politico reported, it is assumed that the cases were not taken up because Joe Biden has already been sworn into office and they are considered moot.
The issue of Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot deadline came before the court ahead of the 2020 election and were the subject of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign, Republican Party, and others.
While the state Supreme Court, as Thomas explained, had issued a 3-day extension to the 8 p.m. deadline for mail-in ballots as established by the state legislature, which constitutionally has the sole authority to dictate how elections are conducted, the high court had deadlocked at 4-4 over a decision to issue a stay that would have blocked the extension.
“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.”
He explained that elections “are ‘of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.’ Through them, we exercise self-government. But elections enable self-governance only when they include processes that ‘giv[e] citizens (including the losing candidates and their supporters) confidence in the fairness of the election.’”
For the court to not have decided on this issue undermines the whole system, Thomas’ dissent read.
“Unclear rules threaten to undermine this system. They sow confusion and ultimately dampen confidence in the integrity and fairness of elections. To prevent confusion, we have thus repeatedly — although not as consistently as we should — blocked rule changes made by courts close to an election.”
“An election system lacks clear rules when, as here, different officials dispute who has authority to set or change those rules. This kind of dispute brews confusion because voters may not know which rules to follow. Even worse, with more than one system of rules in place, competing candidates might each declare victory under different sets of rules.”
“The refusal to do so is inexplicable,” he added.
In conclusion, Thomas wrote, “One wonders what this Court waits for. 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.”
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