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Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid To Reverse Pennsylvania Election Results

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned back an effort to reject Pennsylvania's election results.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court has turned back an effort to reject Pennsylvania's election results.

Updated 6:30 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania, signaling the high court would not go along with President Trump's unprecedented efforts to win another term despite a decisive defeat in the popular vote and Electoral College.

The lawsuit was brought by Republican Rep. Mike Kelly, who argued a 2019 state law authorizing universal mail-in voting is unconstitutional and that all ballots cast by mail in the general election in Pennsylvania should be thrown out.

"The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied," said the court's one-sentence order, which did not suggest any dissent among the nine justices.

Kelly, along with several others, filed the lawsuit on Nov. 21 and requested Pennsylvania either reject the more than 2.5 million ballots cast by mail or allow state lawmakers to select presidential electors. Republicans control Pennsylvania's Legislature.

The state Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the lawsuit on Nov. 28, saying the GOP had waited too long to challenge the law.

"Unsatisfied with the results of that wager, they would now flip over the table, scattering to the shadows the votes of millions of Pennsylvanians," Justice David Wecht wrote. "It is not our role to lend legitimacy to such transparent and untimely efforts to subvert the will of Pennsylvania voters."

Alito, the justice who oversees emergency matters for the court coming from Pennsylvania, had previously given election administrators until Wednesday to file their response to Kelly's appeal.

But Alito moved up that deadline on Sunday, shifting it to Tuesday, the same day that marks the "safe harbor" deadline, which acts as a cutoff date by which states must settle any remaining election disputes and certify their results.

Kelly argued that Act 77, which enables voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason, is unconstitutional. But lawyers representing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's administration have said his claims are baseless.

"After waiting over a year to challenge Act 77, and engaging in procedural gamesmanship along the way, they come to this Court with unclean hands and ask it to disenfranchise an entire state," they wrote. "They make that request without any acknowledgment of the staggering upheaval, turmoil, and acrimony it would unleash."

The law was passed in 2019 with widespread support from Pennsylvania Republicans, who control both chambers of the state's Legislature.

Pennsylvania certified its election results on Nov. 24, with Biden winning by more than 80,000 votes. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called the court's order a "key victory for our democracy."

"This decision is also a key victory for Black Americans, who were the targets of this effort and many others. Black votes matter, Black voices matter, and Black Americans will not be treated as second-class citizens," she said in a statement.

Legal blows for Trump campaign

The Supreme Court's refusal to overturn Pennsylvania's election results is a blow to Trump, who has refused to concede and has spoken openly about his desire for the highest court in the land to step in and help his campaign.

At a political rally Saturday in Georgia, Trump repeated his false and unfounded claims that the election was rigged and filled with "fraud, deception, and deceit."

"Hopefully, our legislatures and the United States Supreme Court will step forward and save our country," Trump said to cheers.

His remarks echoed a sentiment he expressed three days earlier in what he said may be "the most important speech I've ever made."

"What a disaster this election was, a total catastrophe," he said. "But we're going to show it, and hopefully the courts, in particular the Supreme Court of the United States will see it and respectfully, hopefully, they will do what's right for our country."

Trump's campaign has filed numerous lawsuits in states where it did not win in the Nov. 3 election, legal moves that have not gotten very far in places such as Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

In many cases, judges have offered scathing remarks in their decisions to dismiss various lawsuits from the Trump campaign and its allies.

On Friday, the legal teams of Trump and his allies lost challenges in courts in six states within a matter of hours.

The Associated Press reported Monday that a federal judge threw out a lawsuit that challenged the presidential election results in Michigan, bluntly using the phrase, "This ship has sailed."

But that hasn't stopped Trump allies from continuing to test the legal waters.

On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, claimingthat changes in these states to election procedures due to the pandemic violated federal law. He is asking the Supreme Court to block the states from voting in the Electoral College.

Electoral College electors are scheduled to meet in states across the country on Dec. 14 to cast their votes. Biden is expected to receive 306 electoral votes, 36 more than the 270 he needed to become the next president.

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Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.