The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans who said the secretary of state had no authority to extend the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election.
The court's denial, issued with no explanation and no noted dissents, was no surprise. The justices have consistently declined to take up any of the post-election challenges from the state.
Pennsylvania officials urged the court not to touch the case, declaring it "as moot as moot can be," given that the election is long since over and that the total number of ballots at issue was less than the margin of victory in each of the state's federal races.
In other words, even if the challengers had prevailed in their legal challenge, it would not have affected the outcome.
The case rejected Monday involved a lawsuit filed by Jim Bognet, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, and four Republican voters. They challenged the secretary of state's decision to allow three extra days for receiving mail ballots — from Tuesday evening to Friday evening — given the statements from the Postal Service that delivery would likely be slow.
The Republicans said only the legislature could authorize such a change, but their claim was rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rule otherwise.
Republicans brought similar challenges to voting changes in other states, all based on the claim that only legislatures can make substantive changes in voting procedures.
The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether that is, in fact, how the law works. Even so, four justices and some lower court judges have said that because the Constitution provides that every state must choose its presidential electors "in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct," only legislatures can alter voting rules.
But in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case, that notion attracted only three votes and was not a holding of the court. In a 2015 case, the Supreme Court said the Constitution's reference to "legislature" in a separate but similar clause meant the entire lawmaking apparatus, not simply the two state houses.
Monday's rejection of the latest challenge leaves that issue unresolved.