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Why Justice Thomas said the Supreme Court should have ruled on election lawsuits

‘By doing nothing, we invite further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our fellow citizens deserve better and expect more of us,’ wrote Justice Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas listens as President Donald Trump speaks before he administers the Constitutional Oath to Amy Coney Barrett on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, after Barrett was confirmed by the Senate earlier in the evening.
Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to weigh in on Republican appeals to Pennsylvania’s handling of the 2020 presidential election.

And although the decision to hear the cases wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the November election, the Supreme Court’s decision to pass was criticized by Justice Clarence Thomas, who — in his dissent — said it was a missed opportunity for the nation’s highest court to set a precedent for future elections.

The GOP challenges were meant to “invalidate Pennsylvania’s extended mail ballot due date,” The Hill reported.

Conservative Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — who also dissented — agreed the appeals wouldn’t have changed the results of the 2020 presidential election, but would have given the Supreme Court to an “opportunity to determine if Pennsylvania’s elections officials and courts had usurped the state legislature’s authority over elections by easing mail voting restrictions,” The Hill wrote.

Weeks before the election, a gridlocked and time-strapped U.S. Supreme Court had decided not to rule whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had acted lawfully” by extending the mail-in ballot deadline, The New York Times reported.

It didn’t matter, this time

President Joe Biden won the popular and Electoral College vote 306-232 to become the 46th president of the United States.

Even if the the vote in Pennsylvania had somehow been overturned, its 20 electors would not have been enough to tip the electoral scales into former President Donald Trump’s favor.

Politico reported that about 10,000 Pennsylvania ballots arrived during the extended three-day window, “well short of the number that could have imperiled Joe Biden’s 80,555-vote victory.”

But the dissenting judges argued that wasn’t the point.

Thomas’ dissenting opinion

In his dissent Monday, Justice Thomas wrote, “At first blush, it may seem reasonable to address this question when it next arises. After all, the 2020 election is now over, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision was not outcome determinative for any federal election.

“One wonders what this court waits for,” Thomas wrote, according to the Times. “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,” the judged added.