The U.S. Supreme Court appears to have shut down any further challenges to the results of November’s presidential election.
In a decision earlier this week, the nation’s highest court declined to take up two pending cases out of Pennsylvania that addressed a fundamental question regarding who can set the rules for state-run elections.
“That may not be the case in the future”
As the Associated Press reported, on three justices — conservatives Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas — saw fit to entertain the challenges, which is one less than the threshold needed to add a case to the docket.
While Supreme Court justices typically provide little, if any, input regarding why cases are rejected, but all three dissenters felt inclined to explain their perspectives while chastising the court’s majority for refusing to hear a potentially consequential issue.
In a brief dissent joined by Gorsuch, Alito asserted his belief that it was important to review the Pennsylvania cases in order to prevent similar disputes from arising in future elections.
A fiery solitary statement from Thomas, however, caught even more attention. At the heart of the Pennsylvania case is the manner by which the state Supreme Court, at the behest of state officials, granted a three-day extension to the legislatively set Election Day deadline for absentee ballots.
“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.
“Rule changes made by courts close to an election”
He went on to insist that the cases up for consideration “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 decision to deny these challenges, Thomas concluded, “is inexplicable.”
Furthermore, the longtime justice noted that the court had effectively ducked the matter, setting the stage for the exact same dispute to arise again.
“Unclear rules threaten to undermine this system,” he wrote. “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.”
Proceeding to outline several reasons he believed it to be crucial for the court to resolve the matter in the short term, 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.”