Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Undo Biden Victory in Pennsylvania

Dem predictions of Barrett-led coup fall flat

The Supreme Court / Getty Images
December 8, 2020

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Republican appeal to undo the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania.

The decision is a body blow to the long-shot effort to throw the election to the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania legislature, a move President Trump supports. The Court's order did not give reasons for denying the appeal, which is standard practice for such decisions, and there was no noted dissent.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett apparently participated in the decision, despite Democratic calls for her recusal. Her supposed bias in election matters was a major feature of Democratic opposition to her confirmation.

Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Pa.) led a group of Pennsylvania lawmakers who asked the High Court to undo the certification of results in the Keystone State. He argued that the massive expansion of no-excuse mail-in voting violated the state constitution and that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrongfully tossed his legal challenge to that move.

"They make that request without any acknowledgment of the staggering upheaval, turmoil, and acrimony it would unleash," attorneys for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania countered in legal filings. They added that a decision favoring Kelly would rank as one of the most "disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the Republic."

Kelly's appeal faced steep odds, since the Supreme Court usually lets state courts have the final word on state law. The order denying Kelly's appeal came only hours after lawyers for the congressman filed their last legal brief.

Timing was a major factor in the dispute. Federal law requires Congress to recognize a state's electors if they have been appointed as of Tuesday, as Pennsylvania's have. As such, it wasn't clear that legal challenges to Pennsylvania's results were still viable. The Electoral College will cast its votes on Monday, Dec. 14, which could snuff out remaining challenges. Judicial orders interfering with the Electoral College would be unprecedented.

The case is No. 20A98 Kelly v. Pennsylvania.