Later that month, the justices refused a plea from Republicans in the state to fast-track a decision on whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had acted lawfully.
In a statement issued at the time, Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, criticized the court’s treatment of the matter, which he said had “needlessly created conditions that could lead to serious postelection problems.”
“The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has issued a decree that squarely alters an important statutory provision enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature pursuant to its authority under the Constitution of the United States to make rules governing the conduct of elections for federal office,” Justice Alito wrote, adding that he regretted that the election would be “conducted under a cloud.”
“It would be highly desirable to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the State Supreme Court’s decision before the election,” Justice Alito wrote. “That question has national importance, and there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the federal Constitution.”
But there was not enough time, he wrote. Still, Justice Alito left little doubt about where he stood on the question in the case.
“The provisions of the federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, not state courts, the authority to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless,” he wrote, “if a state court could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by claiming that a state constitutional provision gave the courts the authority to make whatever rules it thought appropriate for the conduct of a fair election.”
Even after the election, Pennsylvania Republicans continued to seek Supreme Court review in the case, Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, No. 20-542, saying the justices should address the issue it presented in an orderly way.