WASHINGTON – In scathing language denouncing Republican efforts to subvert the election, the attorneys general of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at overturning victories in those states by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., calling this bold effort an affront to democracy and the rule of law.
The lawsuit, brought by the Republican Attorney General of Texas and backed by his GOP colleagues in 17 other states and 106 Republican members of Congress, represents the most coordinated and politicized attempt to overthrow the will of voters in recent American history. President Trump has also asked to intervene in the trial in the hope that the Supreme Court will give him a second term which he has definitely lost.
The action is the latest in a spectacularly unsuccessful legal attempt by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn the results, a process so lacking in evidence that judges at all levels have laughed at or condemned the business as baseless. Legal experts have also derided this latest lawsuit, which boldly claims, at odds with ordinary federalism principles, that the Supreme Court should investigate and override the electoral systems of four states at the behest of a fifth.
Responses from the four states – represented by three Democratic attorneys general and, in Georgia, a Republican – widely criticized Texas’ unusual request for the Supreme Court to act as a sort of trial court to examine alleged election irregularities. with the aim of rejecting millions of votes.
“The court should not accept this seditious abuse of the court process and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuses must never be repeated,” a brief for Pennsylvania said.
“Let’s be clear,” the brief continues. “Texas calls on this court to overturn the votes of the American people and choose the next President of the United States. This Faustian invitation must be firmly rejected.
Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General of Georgia, appeared particularly taken aback by the Texas lawsuit.
“This electoral cycle,” he wrote, “Georgia has done what the Constitution gave it: it implemented electoral processes, administered the election in the face of the logistical challenges brought about by Covid-19, and confirmed and certified the election results. – Again and again and again. Yet Texas sued Georgia anyway.
The briefs said Texas was unable to tell other states how to run their elections, adding that its record was littered with lies.
“Texas is proposing an extraordinary intrusion into the elections of Wisconsin and the other accused states, a task that the Constitution leaves to each state,” said the Wisconsin brief. “Wisconsin conducted its election and its voters chose a winning candidate for their state. Texas’ attempt to overrule this election has no legal or factual basis. “
The Republican bid to overturn the Supreme Court election, coming just days before an electoral college majority votes for Mr. Biden on Monday, is led by conservative allies of Mr. Trump who are currently enjoying his political favor and claim that he was treated unfairly.
The lawsuit was filed by Ken Paxton, the attorney general for Texas. Mr Paxton is indicted in a securities fraud case and faces separate charges of abuse of his office to aid a political donor by several former employees. He denied the allegations.
According to briefs filed by the four states Mr. Biden won, the threshold problem was that the case did not belong to the Supreme Court at all. While the Constitution gives the Court “original jurisdiction” to hear disputes between states, it exercises this jurisdiction sparingly, typically in water rights cases and border disputes. Disagreement by one state over how another state chose to conduct its elections should not be eligible, according to the brief.
Texas also did not suffer the kind of injury that would qualify them to sue, according to the brief.
“If the Texas prejudice theory were accepted,” the Wisconsin brief said, “it would be too easy to reframe virtually any electoral or voting conflict as involving injury to a state and thereby invoke the original jurisdiction of that court. New York or California could sue Texas or Alabama in this court for their disenfranchisement policies. Electoral disputes over garden varieties would soon be brought to court en masse. “
The briefs added that Texas had waited too long anyway.
“Depriving millions of voters after Pennsylvania has already certified its electoral results would seriously undermine public confidence in the electoral system, violate democratic principle and reward Texas for its inexcusable delay and procedural game,” said the memoir from Pennsylvania.
“As Texas waited to see the results, millions of voters relied on the rules,” the brief said. “These voters should not be punished for not choosing Texas’ preferred candidate, and Texas should not be rewarded for its unreasonable delay in bringing this action.”
States also urged judges to reject what they said was the radical cure Texas sought: denial of the right to vote for tens of millions of voters.
“In support of such a request,” the Pennsylvania brief said, “Texas brings to court only discredited allegations and conspiracy theories that have no factual basis. And Texas is asking this court to twist its original case law in an election where millions of people voted under truly extraordinary circumstances, sometimes risking their health and safety to do so.
Last year, in ruling that federal courts cannot hear disputes from partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court said federal judges should not rule on political disputes. “Federal judges do not have the right to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, without a plausible grant of authority in the Constitution and without legal standards to limit and direct their decisions,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for the majority. .
Pennsylvania cited this decision at the end of its brief. “To accept the Texas point of view,” the brief said, “would violate the Constitution and the drafters’ view, and plunge this court into” one of the most intensely partisan aspects of American political life. “
Wisconsin has warned that even a decision to hear the case could undermine faith in democracy.
“Texas says the intervention of this court is necessary to ensure confidence in the election,” the brief said. “But it is hard to imagine what could further undermine faith in democracy than this court allowing one state to appeal to the court in its attempt to overturn election results in other states.
“Just hearing this case – regardless of the outcome – would generate confusion, lend legitimacy to the claims that judges across the country have found to be baseless, and amplify the uncertainty and mistrust that these bogus allegations have. have engendered “, indicates the brief.
The Supreme Court will likely let Texas file a response to Thursday’s briefs before acting. These response briefs are usually submitted very quickly, sometimes within hours, and judges can decide whether or not to hear the trial as early as Friday.
In theory, the court has several options, including granting a temporary injunction barring state voters from voting for Mr Biden while the case is unfolding or putting the prosecution itself on a fast track. But by far the most likely outcome is that the court refuses to hear the case.
In the days since Texas filed its lawsuit, the Supreme Court received more than a dozen briefs and petitions from friends of the court seeking intervention, from coalitions of red and blue states, from Mr. Trump and politicians and academics. Most were predictable.
But Dave Yost, the Ohio Attorney General, a Republican, filed a cross-cutting brief Thursday accusing Texas of inconsistency. The Constitution, he writes, “means today what it meant a month ago.”
In recent cases, the Red States had argued that state legislatures had the final say in establishing electoral procedures under a clause in the Constitution that states that states must appoint presidential voters “as they see fit. that their legislature may order ”. In the new case, Texas asked the Supreme Court to overturn those legislative decisions.
Mr Yost called for consistency. “Precisely because Ohio shares this view on the meaning of the Election Clause, it cannot support Texas’ recovery advocacy,” he wrote.
“Texas is asking for a ‘referral to state legislatures to allocate voters in a constitutional manner,” Yost wrote, citing documents filed by Texas. “Such an order would violate, not honor, the election clause.”
Mr Yost urged the Supreme Court to settle the meaning of the clause before the 2024 election. The court was asked to answer it in a petition asking for a review of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that extended the deadline of receipt of postal ballots in the state.
Adam Liptak reported from Washington and Jeremy W. Peters from New York.