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Supreme Court Will Not Hear Pennsylvania Election Case Over Mail-In Ballots

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said on Monday it would not hear an appeal from Republicans in Pennsylvania who sought to disqualify the ballots mailed in the 2020 presidential election that came after election day.

The brief court order gave no reason to dismiss the case, marking the end of the Supreme Court’s litigation over the election. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented, saying the court should have used it to provide guidance in future elections.

The dissenting judges acknowledged that the number of ballots at issue in the case was too small to affect President Biden’s victory in the state. But the legal question raised by the case – over the power of state courts to review election laws – was, they said, an important issue that should be resolved without the pressure of an impending election.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that ballots sent out before election day could be counted if they arrived up to three days after. On two occasions before the election, the United States Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case, although several justices expressed doubts about the power of the state court to override the Legislative Assembly of the state, which set a deadline on polling day for receiving ballots by mail.

On Monday, Judge Thomas wrote that the time had come to take up the case.

“At first glance,” he writes, “it may seem reasonable to address this question the next time it arises. After all, the 2020 election is now over, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling was not decisive for the federal election. But however strong this argument may be in other contexts, it fails in the context of elections.

“Because the court system is not well suited to deal with these kinds of issues in the short time available immediately after an election,” Judge Thomas wrote, “we should use the cases available outside of this truncated context. to answer these questions, certainly important.

In a separate dissent, Judge Alito, joined by Judge Gorsuch, agreed that “our review at this time would be very beneficial.”

“A decision in these cases would have no bearing on the 2020 elections,” Judge Alito wrote. “But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections.”

On October 19, before Judge Amy Coney Barrett joined the court, the justices found themselves in a deadlock, 4 to 4, over an emergency request in the case. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they would have granted a stay blocking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. On the other side were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the three-member Liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Later that month, judges refused a plea from state Republicans to expedite a decision on the legality of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In a statement released at the time, Judge Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, criticized the court’s handling of the case, which he said had “unnecessarily created conditions that could lead to serious problems. post-election ”.

“The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an executive order which outright amends an important statutory provision enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature under its authority under the Constitution of the United States to establish rules governing the conduct of elections for federal office.” , wrote Judge Alito adding that he regretted that the election was taking place “under a cloud”.

“It would be highly desirable to render a decision on the constitutionality of the state Supreme Court’s decision before the elections,” Judge Alito wrote. “This issue is of national importance, and it is highly likely that the state Supreme Court’s decision violates the Federal Constitution.”

But there was not enough time, he wrote. Yet Judge Alito left no doubt about his position on the issue in the case.

“The provisions of the Federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, and not on state courts, the power to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless,” he wrote, “if a court of The state could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by asserting that the constitutional provisions of the state gave the courts the power to make the rules they deemed appropriate for the conduct of a fair election. “

Even after the election, Pennsylvania Republicans continued to seek a Supreme Court review in the Pennsylvania Republican Party v Boockvar case, No. 20-542, claiming judges should address the issue she presented of orderly manner.

“By resolving the important and recurring issues now, the Court can provide the advice that legislatures and state courts across the country desperately need outside of the context of a hotly contested election and ahead of the next election,” their report said. memory. “The alternative is for the court to leave legislatures and courts with a lack of advance guidance and clarity regarding the oversight law – only to be called upon to answer these questions in a future after-the-fact litigation over a contested election,” with the time that accompanies it. pressures and perceptions of partisan interest. “

On Monday, Judge Thomas wrote that the court had missed an opportunity.

“One wonders what awaits this tribunal”, he wrote. “We failed to resolve this dispute before the election, and therefore provide clear rules. Today we again fail to provide clear rules for future elections.

“The decision to leave the electoral law hidden under a veil of doubt is puzzling,” Judge Thomas wrote. “By doing nothing we are causing further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our citizens deserve better and expect more from us. “

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Pennsylvania GOP pressure for more power over judiciary raises alarm bells

She added, “It’s far too much control for one branch to have over another branch, especially where one of its responsibilities is to rule over the excesses of the legislative branch.”

If the Republican bill becomes law, Pennsylvania would become just the fifth state in the country, after Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Illinois, to fully map its justice system into constituencies, according to the Brennan Center. And other states could soon join Pennsylvania in trying to redraw the courts.

Republicans in the Texas legislature, which is also controlled by the GOP, recently introduced a bill that would move districts to state courts of appeals by moving certain counties to different districts, causing an uproar among Democrats in State who saw the new districts as weakening the vote. power of black and Latin American communities in judicial elections and potentially adding to the Republican tilt of Texas courts.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, called the bill a “pure takeover designed to prevent blacks and Latinos from influencing the courts as their numbers in the state increase.” .

These judicial redistribution battles are taking shape as Republican-controlled legislatures across the country explore new restrictions on voting after the 2020 election. In Georgia, Republicans in the state legislature seek a host of new laws that would make voting more difficult, including banning drop-off boxes and imposing drastic restrictions on postal voting. Similar bills in Arizona would limit mail-in voting, including banning the state from sending mail-in vote requests. And in Texas, Republican lawmakers want to limit early voting periods.

The Republicans’ national effort follows a successful four-year campaign by party lawmakers in Washington to reshape the federal court system with conservative judges. Led by Senator Mitch McConnell, until recently Majority Leader, and Mr. Trump, the Senate confirmed 231 federal justices, as well as three new Supreme Court justices, during the four-year tenure of the former president, according to data maintained by Russell Wheeler, a researcher at the Brookings Institution.

In a state like Pennsylvania, which has two densely populated democratic cities and large rural areas, this could give sparsely populated and more conservative places disproportionate representation, particularly if lawmakers resort to a gerrymandering tactic similar to that used. in Pennsylvania in 2011.

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Pennsylvania man who abused girls in Kenya orphanage 15 years

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison on Thursday for abusing four underage girls in Kenya, where he had run an orphanage for about a decade before returning home, authorities said.

The man, Gregory Dow, of Lancaster County, had “traveled half the world to tackle incredibly vulnerable victims,” ​​Jennifer Arbittier Williams, acting U.S. lawyer for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said in a report. communicated. “His crimes are almost incomprehensible in their depravity.”

In addition to the jail term, Mr. Dow was also ordered to pay $ 16,000 in restitution.

Lawyers for Mr Dow, 61, did not immediately respond to emails and phone messages Thursday evening.

Mr Dow pleaded guilty in 2020 to four counts of child abuse over a four-year period, starting when the youngest victims were 11. At the time, prosecutors said they were prepared to present evidence detailing the years of abuse by Mr. Dow.

In early 2008, Mr. Dow and his family moved to Kenya to start an orphanage, which became known as the Dow Family Children’s Home, in Comet County, prosecutors said. The orphanage operated until September 2017, when Mr Dow left the country after allegations of sexual abuse came to light there, prosecutors said.

As part of a plea deal, Mr. Dow admitted to abusing four girls in multiple attacks from October 2013 to September 2017. Two of the victims were 11 when the abuse began; another was 12 and a fourth 13, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Mr Dow sexually abused three of the girls knowing that his wife, who had helped run the orphanage, had taken these victims and other girls to the orphanage to be implanted with protective devices. birth control in their arms, prosecutors said. This meant that Mr. Dow “was able to carry out these crimes without fear that the abuse would lead to pregnancy,” prosecutors said.

Michael J. Driscoll, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI, said authorities were focused on investigating the allegations against Mr. Dow.

“If he thought no one would care because it was about disadvantaged black children he was the victim of, this investigation and today’s sentence have clearly proven him wrong,” Mr Driscoll said in a statement Thursday.

While living in Kenya, Mr. Dow maintained relationships with Pennsylvania, including maintaining a bank account and twice renewing a commercial driver’s license in the state, prosecutors said. The orphanage has also received money from people and organizations in the United States, including Mr. Dow’s Church, LifeGate in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, The Morning Call of Allentown, PA reported.

The investigation into Mr. Dow was carried out by various entities, including officials from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and the Kenyan office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, prosecutors said.

The four girls at the orphanage were not Mr Dow’s first minor victims, prosecutors said, noting that he pleaded guilty in 1996 to sexually abusing a minor in Iowa. Before he was sentenced, attorneys for Mr Dow urged the court to honor the plea deal they reached with prosecutors, who recommended he be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In a court memo, attorneys for Mr. Dow said his “childhood was difficult, fraught with loss, abuse and neglect, which ultimately led to his placement in foster care.

“These traumatic experiences undoubtedly touched him well as an adult,” they wrote.

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Pennsylvania lawmaker played key role in Trump plot to overthrow Acting Attorney General

But the plan was in line with the posture Mr. Perry had taken since November, when he began falsely claiming that there had been widespread election fraud, and throughout that time Mr. Perry remained defiant. Faced with calls to step down because of his role in efforts to overthrow the election, Mr. Perry responded in one word: “No”.

Mr. Perry, a retired Pennsylvania National Guard brigadier general and Iraq War veteran, has previously been under scrutiny for his openness to the conspiracy. He baselessly suggested that the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas by a single shooter could have been influenced by “terrorist infiltration across the southern border”. and refused to support a resolution condemning QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy movement. (Mr Perry said he believed the resolution violated individuals’ right to free speech and that he did not personally endorse the movement.)

One of the first supporters of the “Stop the Steal” movement,

Mr Perry was one of 126 House Republicans who joined a legal case in December to support an extraordinary trial aimed at overturning Mr Biden’s victory. And he joined more than two dozen of his colleagues in urging Mr. Trump to ask William P. Barr, the attorney general, “to investigate the irregularities in the 2020 election.”

He opposed the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results on behalf of 79 other House Republicans, although he later recognized Mr. Biden as president-elect.

The plan Mr. Perry devised with Mr. Clark sparked a crisis in the Department of Justice. When Mr Clark contacted Mr Rosen with the letter from Georgia at the end of December, Mr Rosen refused to send it, according to four former administration officials. On January 3, Mr. Clark informed Mr. Rosen that he would accept his job at Mr. Trump’s request.

As Mr. Rosen prepared to meet Mr. Trump later in the day and fight for his post, his top deputies, including Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard P. Donoghue, and his outgoing chief of staff , Patrick Hovakimian, summoned the senior leaders of the department. during a conference call, according to five former officials familiar with the call.

They told department heads that Mr. Rosen’s job was under threat because of Mr. Clark’s machinations and said they would resign if Mr. Rosen was fired. They ended the call by asking their co-workers to think in private about what they would do if this happened. Over the next 15 minutes, all of them emailed or texted Mr. Hovakimian, saying they were going to quit.

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Video: Biden walks on Pennsylvania Avenue

new video loaded: Biden walks down Pennsylvania Avenue

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transcription

Biden walks down Pennsylvania Avenue

President Biden strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House surrounded by his family, an inaugural tradition.

[cheering] “How are you?” “Feel good.” “We love you!” “Thank you.”

Recent episodes of Press clips: Politics

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Pennsylvania GOP refuses to serve as the Democratic legislator in the state legislature.

The effort by Congressional Republicans to deny the presidential results resonated in the Pennsylvania legislature on Tuesday, when Republicans voted not to sit on a Democratic lawmaker who was elected in November and to impeach the lieutenant governor, also Democrat, as president of the State Senate.

On a typically ceremonial swearing-in day for members, the majority of the Pennsylvania Senate refused to sit Sen. Jim Brewster, whose narrow victory has been officially certified but is being challenged in court.

In a controversial and chaotic session, Republicans also voted to impeach Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman as Speaker of the Senate and replace him with the top House Republican.

The lieutenant governor initially refused to leave the gallery, and for several minutes he and the Republican voted for him and tried to recognize the floor’s motions. Finally, Mr. Fetterman walked away.

“I was escorted,” Mr. Fetterman said in an interview a few minutes later. “It was a corruption of fundamental democratic frankness in our state.” He said Mr. Brewster’s victory in November was certified by the Commonwealth Secretary and compared the actions of Republicans in the state to President Trump’s efforts to reverse the outcome of his race.

Mr. Brewster, who represented an area outside of Pittsburgh for a decade, defeated Republican Nicole Ziccarelli by 69 votes. She challenges the results in Federal Court. In question, several hundred mail ballots did not have a handwritten date on their outer envelope. Ms Ziccarelli lost a challenge in state court.

Jake Corman, interim president of the state Senate and Republican, told reporters on Monday that his party believes it should wait for the outcome of the court challenge before filling the seat. “Our goal is to get it right, not to get it done quickly,” he said.

But Democrats characterized it as a naked takeover. “This idea of ​​letting a party decide who is the real winner is a dangerous precedent that we see played out on the national stage,” said Mr. Fetterman.

Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, accused Democrats of creating chaos. “Today the order and decorum of the Senate has been hijacked by Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and members of the Democratic Senate caucus, who did not follow the rules of the Senate,” she said. .

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TimesVideoWatch Live: Electoral College Voting in Pennsylvania On Monday, voters in the states of Pennsylvania will meet to officially vote in the Electoral College.

TimesVideoWatch Live: Electoral College Voting in Pennsylvania On Monday, voters in the states of Pennsylvania will meet to officially vote in the Electoral College.

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Watch Live: Voters to Vote in Pennsylvania.

Watch Live: Voters to Vote in Pennsylvania.

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Supreme Court rejects Republican vote challenge in Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by Republicans in Pennsylvania to overturn the state’s election results. The judges said they would not block a decision by Pennsylvania’s highest court that would have dismissed a challenge to the use of mail-in ballots in the state. The Supreme Court order was only one sentence long and there were no dissent noted.

The Supreme Court’s request for intercession encountered significant legal hurdles, as it was filed long after the enactment of the contested law that allowed postal votes and was based on matters of state rather than federal law.

At the end of November, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sentenced the plaintiffs, led by Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican, on the first ground, saying they could have challenged a 2019 law allowing postal voting for some reason there. is over a year old.

“By the time this action was filed on November 21, 2020, millions of Pennsylvania voters had already expressed their will in the June 2020 primary and November 2020 general election,” the court said. “The petitioners did not act with due diligence in making the request in this case. Equally clear is the substantial harm flowing from the petitioners’ failure to swiftly implement a facial challenge to the statutory postal voting system, as such inaction would result in the denial of the right to vote for millions of Pennsylvania voters. .

The plaintiffs had asked the state court to overturn the ballots mailed after the fact or to ask the state legislature to choose Pennsylvania voters.

The filing in the United States Supreme Court sought an order directing state officials not to take any further steps to certify the vote in Pennsylvania or to “quash any action already taken” while the plaintiffs pursued a lawsuit. call. The request was directed to Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., a member of the Emergency Claims Tribunal for State Decisions.

The case challenged the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s interpretation of state law. The Supreme Court of the United States does not generally question these decisions.

Urging judges not to intercede, state attorneys said the Republicans’ demands were “an affront to constitutional democracy.”

“The petitioners ask this tribunal to undertake one of the most dramatic and disruptive invocations of the judiciary in the history of the Republic,” they wrote. “No court has ever issued an order quashing a governor’s certification of presidential election results.”

They said there were four flaws in the challengers’ arguments. At the United States Supreme Court, the challengers said state law conflicts with federal constitutional provisions governing elections. But they had not made that point squarely in their major filings in state courts, and the Supreme Court usually does not rule on issues that have not been decided first by a lower court.

Additionally, state attorneys wrote, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision was based on a state law issue. This “adequate and independent state law ground” for the decision, they wrote, prevents review by the United States Supreme Court.

They added that the challengers had not suffered the kind of concrete harm that would give them standing to sue and that the 2019 law was not at odds with the state constitution.

Either way, state attorneys wrote, the issue is largely moot, as the state election results in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr. have been certified and submitted. The challengers’ final argument, they wrote, is that the Supreme Court should simply overturn the state’s election results. This request, they wrote, was mind-boggling and unconstitutional.

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Trump asked Pennsylvania House president about reversing his loss

Stepping up efforts to reverse his loss to Joseph R. Biden Jr., President Trump has twice called on the Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in recent days to encourage challenges to the official results in the state.

Mr Trump has pressed President Bryan Cutler on how Republicans plan to overturn the results of an election Mr Biden has been certified to win by more than 80,000 votes, a spokesperson said on Monday evening. word of Mr Cutler, Michael Straub.

“He asked what options were available to the legislature,” Straub said, referring to the president.

A series of lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign and its allies, claiming widespread electoral fraud in Pennsylvania, have been dismissed by state and federal courts.

Supporters of Mr. Trump’s baseless fraud allegations have called on Republican-led legislatures in several states to overturn the results, although the Pennsylvania General Assembly is out of session and can only be recalled by Gov. Tom Wolf , a democrat.

“Cutler has made it very clear what power the legislature has and does not have,” said Straub, who called the president’s calls to seek information rather than pressuring the speaker. The calls were reported earlier by the Washington Post.

Pennsylvania is the third state in which Mr. Trump is known to have contacted the top Republicans elected in an attempt to overthrow the will of voters. He earlier summoned Michigan’s legislative leaders to the White House, and over the weekend he urged Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to call on that state’s legislature to overturn the election.

At a rally in Georgia on Saturday, Mr. Trump said Mr. Kemp “could stop him very easily if he knew what he was doing.”

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden was certified the winner last month by the State Department, and Mr. Wolf signed a “certificate of finding” for Mr. Biden’s list of voters to be nominated to the Electoral College, which votes on the December 14. .

Nonetheless, 64 Republicans in the General Assembly, including Mr. Cutler and other members of the leadership, on Friday called on the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to reject electoral votes for Mr. Biden when Congress meets on Jan.6 for confirm the results of the electoral college. This effort is highly unlikely, not least because the Democratic-led House of Representatives is expected to accept it. Pennsylvania’s longest-serving Congressional Republican Senator Pat Toomey has said through his office that he “will not oppose” Mr. Biden’s 20 state election votes.

Mr Trump’s personal attacks on the few top Republicans who refute his fraud claims, such as in Georgia and Arizona, as well as his efforts to enlist allies into the party in his brazen efforts to overthrow the will of voters, as in Pennsylvania, are likely to make the issue crucial for next year’s and midterm 2022 elections. The Republican primaries could turn into challenges of who stood behind Mr. Trump in his baseless claims that undermined faith in the democracy.

State Representative Joanna E. McClinton, leader of the Pennsylvania Democrats’ Minority, called the Republican claims widespread fraud, which echoed Mr. Trump’s descent into conspiracy theories and disinformation, of “scandalous”.

“We are seeing extremists who claim to like the Constitution,” she said, “but who want to reject it simply because the president has lost his candidacy for re-election.”