The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Saturday unanimously dismissed with prejudice a petition to delay certification of the results of the 2020 General Election.
This ruling delivers yet another legal blow to President Donald Trump’s fight against the election results, which he and many of his Republican supporters have called “fraudulent” and “rigged”. The court’s decision comes 24 hours after a federal appeals court dismissed another challenge to the legitimacy of the elections in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit was filed by Republicans Mike Kelly, Sean Parnell, Wanda Logan, and five private citizens of Pennsylvania. Kelly has been serving as a member of the US House of Representatives since 2011. Parnell, who ran against Democratic incumbent Connor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District, and Logan were both defeated on November 3. The suit alleged that Act 77, which established universal mail-in voting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on October 31, 2019, was unconstitutional and yet “another illegal attempt to override the protective limitations on absentee voting prescribed in the Pennsylvania Constitution.” Specifically, the suit requested a prohibitory injunction to delay certification of the election results and sought to invalidate millions of mail-in votes and count only “legal votes”.
The ruling vacated the order issued on November 25 by Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough who granted the injunction, halting Pennsylvania’s certification process. The PA Supreme Court cited the doctrine of laches, which stops a party from suing when they have not responded in a reasonably prompt way. The lawsuit came more than a year (and two elections) after Act 77 was adopted by the Pennsylvania Legislature, during which time Kelly, Parnell, or Logan could have filed a lawsuit but failed to do so. The court’s majority opinion emphasized that this petition came far too late, after 6.9 million Pennsylvanians had relied upon the system that was created by their elected lawmakers and had functioned for Pennsylvania’s June primary election without challenge. In their dismissal of the lawsuit, the court noted, “The want of due diligence demonstrated in this matter is unmistakable.”
In a scathing concurring statement, Justice David Wecht noted that neither this lawsuit nor the lawsuit filed by the campaign of President Donald Trump alleges that any mail-in ballots were fraudulently cast or counted, saying, “The absence of fraud allegation from this matter–not to mention actual evidence of fraud–alone is fatal to [their] claim.”
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Saylor also issued a concurring and dissenting statement, in which he too affirmed the court’s ruling. He stressed that the citizens of Pennsylvania relied in good faith upon the system that was in place and that it would be unjust to consider the “extreme and untenable remedies proposed by [Kelly, Parnell, and Logan].” He nonetheless called into question the 180-day restriction on substantive challenges that was imposed by Act 77, and criticized the use of extraordinary jurisdiction that the court granted for this appeal.
This case is the latest of a series of unsuccessful legal attempts by Republicans to challenge Pennsylvania’s election results.