US Supreme Court says no to providing guidance for elections

February 23 – The United States Supreme Court upheld as constitutional several Pennsylvania State Supreme Court decisions including mail-in ballots and election laws on Monday.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen of the Big Talk on 103.7FM discussed the issue today.

There were not enough votes in the US Supreme Court to look deeper into these cases – and it wasn’t unanimous. The split decision would have needed just one more vote to get the highest court in the land to investigate, but it didn’t happen.

“Justice (Clarence) Thomas issued a fairly harsh dissent,” Barkdoll noted. Justice Thomas said even though it wouldn’t have changed the election results, shouldn’t the US Supreme Court provide guidance on these election issues? Apparently not, according to the decision.

Because that decision was made, it falls back to the state governor’s office and state judiciary to reform the election system.

Which begs the question, what’s being done at the state level to ensure future elections, especially with a primary coming up in May?

In an interview last week, Pa. Representative Paul Schemel said there are hearings underway to investigate the election process, particularly the discrepancies between counties.

Barkdoll would like to see pre-canvassing in Pa., which would allow mail-in ballots to be counted and not wait until 8 p.m. on election night to start the process.

Ryan added that someone from the Republican side and someone from the Democrat side should have eyes on it the whole time.

“It’s so simple, isn’t it?” Barkdoll said. “To credit the counties, they were saying from the beginning, this was pre-COVID, we foresee problems with the way you’re making us count the votes, waiting until after 8 o’clock on election night. And they were right. I think the general assembly should be able to clean that up. This should be a bipartisan issue…so that we don’t have to keep going through this every election cycle.”

Jansen doesn’t believe that will happen. “The Democrats will say this is voter suppression, this is suppression of minority votes. They will always couch things like this in those terms. Sadly. And I think it’s a real disservice to all of us, minority or not.”

Another issue is that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is essentially locked in for service. Members are not re-elected. They do stand for retention every ten years and they do have mandatory retirement at 75, but they are effectively lifetime elected positions.

Ryan wondered, “Where is the republican leadership on this? Why don’t we reform this stuff? It’s like tenure for college professors. All they do is sit in there and they’re certainly not engaged. All you’re doing is shuffling papers from one side to the other. This is infuriating.”

“Our state’s supreme court is particularly biased,” Jansen agreed. “It’s pretty recognized.”

Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the country that still elects judges.

“Folks, the battle is not between you and I,” Ryan said. “It’s not a battle of black and white, it’s not a battle of gay or straight. The battle is the very people that have built themselves a moat around their party. The old, protected, political privileged class.”