The Supreme Court refused Friday to let Texas challenge the election results in Wisconsin and three other battleground states critical to President Donald Trump’s defeat at the polls last month, likely sealing his political fate.
“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said in a brief order. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.
The justices’ action clears the way for electors to convene in 50 states and the District of Columbia Monday and all but confirm that President-elect Joe Biden will be the nation’s 46th president.
The ruling came the same day a Wisconsin judge ruled against Trump and determined clerks had properly run the state’s election. The state Supreme Court will hear Trump’s appeal at noon Saturday.
Texas had made, and Trump had endorsed, an 11th-hour effort to have the nation’s highest court block Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from casting their electoral votes for Biden on Monday. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed the four states used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to change election rules and greatly expand mail voting in violation of the Constitution.
Within days, the last-ditch challenge had erupted into a war involving nearly every state in the nation. The four battleground states fired back, with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro labeling the effort to negate millions of citizens’ ballots a “seditious abuse of the judicial process.”
“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. “Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy.”
More than 100 Republicans in Congress, including Tom Tiffany of northern Wisconsin, filed a brief in support of Paxton’s effort.
Josh Kaul, Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general, asked the high court to decline to take the case.
“Texas is asking this Court to overturn the will of the people of Wisconsin — and the nation — based on meritless accusations of election fraud,” his aides wrote in a brief to the court. “If this Court agrees to do so, it will not only irreparably harm its own legitimacy, but will lend fuel to a disinformation campaign aimed at undermining the legitimacy of our democracy.”
Paxton argued Wisconsin election officials gave clerks faulty advice on absentee ballot drop boxes and filling in missing witness addresses on absentee ballot envelopes. He also questioned the state’s rules for voters who say they are confined because of age or disability. (Similar challenges were raised in the state case, but Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek on Friday determined clerks had followed the state’s election laws.)
Texas’ effort was a long shot for several reasons. States run their own elections, making it a violation of sovereignty for Texas to interfere with other states’ procedures. Federal law defers to states in choosing electors, and Congress ultimately counts the votes.
What’s more, voters in the challenged states followed the rules in voting, including by mail, and would have been disenfranchised under Texas’ challenge. Lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and allies across the country have not identified verifiable instances of fraud.
And while disputes between states can go directly to the Supreme Court without first being heard by lower courts, the justices retain discretion to deny such requests. For instance, the court refused in 2016 to hear a dispute between Colorado and two neighboring states over the cross-border impact of marijuana legalization.
The action was the second time in recent days that the court had turned away efforts to forestall Trump’s defeat. On Tuesday, the justices denied an effort by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and others to block the election results in Pennsylvania. Those challengers had claimed that the state legislature’s 2019 expansion of mail-in voting was illegal.
Texas had contended that changes in voting procedures made by state officials in the four battleground states abrogated laws passed earlier by their legislatures, which it said have the sole constitutional authority to run elections.
“Defendant states flooded their citizenry with tens of millions of ballot applications and ballots, ignoring statutory controls as to how they were received, evaluated, and counted,” Paxton wrote in igniting the firestorm Monday night. “Whether well-intentioned or not, these unconstitutional and unlawful changes had the same uniform effect — they made the 2020 election less secure.”
Trump’s request to intervene in the challenge endorsed widely disputed statistics intended to show that Biden’s victory in the election was almost an impossibility. Among other things, he incorrectly said no presidential candidate ever lost election after winning Florida and Ohio, as Trump did. Richard Nixon endured the same fate in 1960.
“These things just don’t normally happen, and a large percentage of the American people know that something is deeply amiss,” his lawyers said in court papers.
All four of the challenged states told the justices Thursday that Texas’ request should be slapped down.
Georgia said the justices should not “transfer Georgia’s electoral powers to the federal judiciary.” Michigan said Texas “does not have a cognizable interest in how Michigan runs its elections.” And Wisconsin said “the harm and public interest factors strongly weigh in favor of denying the extraordinary relief Texas seeks — stripping millions of voters of the choice they made.”
Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.