So many voices, and for me, so little clarity. Let’s do some discovery.
Justice Clarence Thomas issued a dissenting opinion on the Pennsylvania election case, specifically, the denial of a writ of certiorari. (What is that? See below) His writing presents a learning opportunity for us. The opinion is short, readable, understandable, and gives us an “eye” into the process of SCOTUS. We learn to look at a Supreme Court document for ourselves, rather than relying solely on the press or commentators’ lens.
First, let’s review the definition of a writ of certiorari. According to uscourts.gov :
“Parties who are not satisfied with the decision of a lower court must petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. The primary means to petition the Court for review is to ask it to grant a writ of certiorari. This is a request that the Supreme Court order a lower court to send up the record of the case for review. The Court usually is not under any obligation to hear these cases, and it usually only does so if the case could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal Circuit courts, and/or could have precedential value.”
Justice Thomas issued a dissenting opinion on the denial of a writ of certiorari, or the request to review the Pennsylvania election case. Note: this dissent only refers to the Pennsylvania case. In a separate case, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in March on whether Arizona’s voting rules discriminate against minorities.
We can discover some civics and history lessons from Justice Thomas’s opinion. Here are three examples:
“Because the Federal Constitution, not state constitutions, gives state legislatures authority to regulate federal elections, petitioners presented a strong argument that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision violated the Constitution by overriding “the clearly expressed intent of the legislature.” Bush v. Gore, 531 U. S. 98, 120 (2000) (Rehnquist, C. J., concurring).”
“The Court also ordered officials to count ballots received by the new deadline even if there was no evidence—such as a postmark—that the ballots were mailed by election day. That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future. These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority non-legislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”
“Unclear rules threaten to undermine this system. They sow confusion and ultimately dampen confidence in the integrity and fairness of elections. To prevent confusion, we have thus repeatedly—although not as consistently as we should—blocked rule changes made by courts close to an election.”
I believe there is a need to seek clarity on this issue from primary sources continually.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. 🇺🇸
Here is a link to the official dissenting opinion of Justice Thomas: