State Watch

Pennsylvania county asks Barrett to recuse herself from mail-ballot extension case

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday was asked to recuse herself from participating in a dispute over a mail-ballot extension in Pennsylvania, with the newly confirmed justice facing immediate political pressure on her first day on the job.

The recusal motion was filed by the Luzerne County Board of Elections, one of the parties that has asked the Supreme Court to reject efforts by Pennsylvania Republicans to roll back voting accommodations in the state.

“The nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice this close to a presidential election is unprecedented,” they wrote. “As concerning as that is, what is even more troubling is the language President Trump has used in consideration of this nomination, linking it directly to the electoral season at hand, with implications for his own re-election.”

Justices are generally permitted to decide for themselves whether or not recusal is appropriate in a given case to avoid an actual or perceived conflict of interest. 

Pennsylvania Republicans returned to the Supreme Court on Friday night in a second effort to roll back the state’s mail-in ballot extension, just days after the court deadlocked on the issue.

They have asked the justices to fast-track the formal review of a major ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which held that mailed ballots must be accepted if they arrive by Nov. 6 and aren’t postmarked after Election Day.

Republicans’ latest request came less than a week after the Supreme Court left intact Pennsylvania’s mail-ballot extension with a 4-4 deadlock. The tie vote last week broke largely along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three liberals in denying the GOP’s request to halt the state court ruling, while the court’s four most conservative justices indicated they would have granted it.

If the GOP’s latest bid proves successful, it could disenfranchise a number of mail-in voters. The harm would likely fall disproportionately on Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s supporters, who are considered about twice as likely as President Trump’s backers to vote by mail.

The Keystone State is a crucial battleground in the 2020 election after President Trump won it in 2016 by fewer than 45,000 votes. 

The Tuesday recusal motion contains quotes from Trump that Luzerne County says amount to at least the appearance of a conflict for Barrett.

Trump has repeatedly warned, without basis in fact, of the risk of widespread voter fraud this election and encouraged the swift confirmation of Barrett, in part so she could be seated in time to rule on voting litigation.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” Trump said in a Sept. 23 news conference. “It’s better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation.”

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Donald Trump Joe Biden Pennsylvania Supreme Court

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