In case you’ve just returned from your vacation on Mars, there seems to be a bit of a sticky issue over ballots, mostly in Pennsylvania. Trump has been railing for months about mail-in ballots and stealing elections. All of this commotion without any evidence whatsoever even though studies have shown no evidence of any significant fraud in any elections over the years. One of Trump’s favorite rally lines is that he could only lose this election is if it is rigged. This is clearly the case of a man reading too many of his press clippings.
Here is the situation in Pennsylvania. The State Legislature, controlled by Republicans, stated that absentee ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. on November 3rd, Election Day. The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled that an extension of three days was valid due to the coronavirus pandemic. So Pennsylvanians had until 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6th, for ballots to be delivered, as long as they were postmarked by November 3rd.
The US Supreme Court had declined to rule on this when it came before them but expressed an interest in revisiting the ruling after Election Day. The Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, anticipating such a move, ordered any ballots that arrived after 8 p.m. on Election Day be kept separated. The US Supreme Court did not disappoint and ordered those ballots kept separate in case of further review.
The actual legal distinction seems to rest on whether the State Legislature or the State Supreme Court has the right to determine the election process. Those who point to the Legislature also fall into the category of people who rail against “activist judges” whose decisions ultimately become law.
And yet, isn’t that the function of a Court? In a checks and balances system, the Legislature forms a check on the Executive, and the Court forms a check on both the Executive and the Legislature. In turn, the Senate serves as a check on the Executive. The Court is charged with the need to “Advise and Consent” for Executive Judicial appointments.
If the Legislature passes defective laws, the courts are supposed to “interpret” those laws and “judge” them. In the Supreme Court case, the judges are called “Justices” because they are tasked with the ultimate authority to provide Justice.
In Pennsylvania, at first glance, it would seem that the State Legislature has the right to determine how elections are held in Pennsylvania.
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”
This nonsense exists, despite the pandemic and the apparent corruption of the Postmaster-General, Louis DeJoy. A Federal court had ordered DeJoy and the Postal Service to restore the Post Office to the same state of efficiency that was in place in January of 2020. DeJoy, a major Trump contributor, was found to have deliberately slowed down postal deliveries during the pandemic to give Trump an advantage. How? Because Republican supporters tend to vote in person, while Democrats were mailing ballots to stay safe.
Furthermore, consider the Court’s potential view of the conflict between voters who were told they had extra time to vote, only to discover they may have been disenfranchised due to a power struggle between these two branches of the State government.
Even if the US Supreme Court invalidates the absentee ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day, no one expects it to affect the general election.
But wouldn’t it be ironic if this election was decided for the second time in 20 years by the US Supreme Court rather than the will of the People? Talk about activist judges.