U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has moved up the deadline for Pennsylvania officials to respond to an election challenge filed by state Rep. Mike Kelly and other Republican state lawmakers, possibly signaling that the court may take up the case.
What are the details?
Alito had previously set the deadline for Dec. 9, one day after what is known as the “safe harbor date,” the federal cutoff date for states to resolve election issues and lock in the their electors for the Electoral College vote on Dec. 14.
But on Sunday, Alito moved up the deadline for Pennsylvania officials to respond to Tuesday by 9 a.m. ET. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the move is significant because it “would give the court a few hours Tuesday to act on Kelly’s request if it chooses to do so.”
The plaintiffs in the case are seeking to have the court toss all of the state’s mail-in ballots on the grounds that a state law passed in October 2019 that allows for no-excuse absentee voting is unconstitutional. The state constitution specifies that absentee votes can be cast for only a limited number of reasons.
Alito reportedly did not offer an explanation for the change, but nevertheless it is certainly a hopeful sign for efforts to challenge the state’s election results. The Inquirer noted that Alito’s original selection of the Dec. 9 deadline indicated to most legal observers that the court had no intention of acting on the case in a way that would alter the results.
Former Vice President Joe Biden currently leads incumbent President Donald Trump in the state by just over 80,000 votes. But should the courts rule that millions of mail-in ballots cast in the state be lost, it would effectively ensure a Pennsylvania victory for Trump as the election would be sent to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature for a vote.
Despite the move seeming to provide a glimmer of hope for the president and his allies, some experts are arguing that the deadline change is nothing more than a symbolic gesture out of respect for the Republican lawmakers.
“I would not read too much into this,” Richard L. Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California-Irvine, said in a blog post Sunday. “It shows more respect to the petitioners [Kelly], and does not make it look like the court is simply running out the clock on the petition. I still think the chances the court grants any relief on this particular petition are virtually zero.”
In a unanimous decision late last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit, essentially arguing that it arrived far too late and only came after the lawmakers’ favored candidate lost.