PHILADELPHIA — The state of Texas has joined the expanding list of naysayers knocking at courthouse doors by asking the Supreme Court's justices for leave to sue Pennsylvania as well as Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.
It decried what it described as "significant and unconstitutional irregularities" in voting processes in each battleground and urged the justices to throw out their election results and appoint each state's legislature to decide the winner instead.
That fight joins a collection of other eleventh-hour legal battles, including a bid before the justices from U.S. Rep. Kelly (R., Butler) and one before a Pennsylvania appellate court led by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler) — both seeking court orders to invalidate the state's certified election results.
But that last-minute spasm of activity comes as the president appears to have largely given up on his own legal battles in the state. After suffering more than a dozen consecutive losses in his attempt to challenge the Pennsylvania election results in state and federal courts, his campaign has not appealed any of its Pennsylvania-focused litigation to the U.S. Supreme Court and has not sought to join any of the more recent lawsuits brought by his GOP allies.
Instead, his focus appears to have shifted toward leaning on lawmakers in Harrisburg and Washington to make an end run around the courts. The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump had personally leaned on Pennsylvania state House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) twice in the past week, seeking his assistance in reversing President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the state — a tactic the president has also deployed with elected leaders in Michigan and Georgia.
Cutler rebuffed him both times, saying the state legislature had no legal authority to interfere. But late Friday, the speaker signed a letter along with 63 other Republican colleagues in the state House urging Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation to reject the state's Electoral College votes when Congress meets in January to sign off on the final vote.
Many of those same lawmakers filed a brief in support of Kelly's suit before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, urging the justices to effectively roll back Pennsylvania's certified results, which declared Joe Biden the victor by some 81,000 votes.
Kelly has argued that last year's statute that expanded the ability to vote by mail in the state was improperly passed as a law by the GOP-controlled legislature when it should have been subjected to the more rigorous process of amending the state constitution.
He has pushed for disqualifying every ballot cast by mail in the state and has asked the Supreme Court justices to issue an injunction invalidating Pennsylvania's results until his case can be fully argued and decided by the courts.
On Tuesday, lawyers for Wolf and the state's Democratic legislators balked at Kelly's arguments — noting that many of the GOP lawmakers who had signed on in support of the congressman's suit had originally voted for the law they are now calling unconstitutional — and the remedy he is now seeking before the court, noting he is effectively calling for the disenfranchisement of the entire state.
Kelly, they wrote, "asks this court to undertake one of the most dramatic, disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the republic. No court has ever issued an order nullifying a governor's certification of presidential election results. And for good reason."
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) has said he will argue the congressman's case himself should the Supreme Court decide to hear oral arguments — a fact Kelly's lawyer confirmed Monday — saying the constitutional integrity of the 2020 election is at stake.
But meanwhile, Cruz's state moved forward with its own legal challenge based in the argument that Pennsylvania election officials and state judges usurped the authority of their state legislatures by implementing policies or passing rulings that Republicans say ran contrary to what lawmakers had originally intended.
For instance, Republicans have repeatedly pushed back against guidance Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar gave to counties to allow voters the chance to correct mistakes on their mail ballots by Election Day. Some Democratic-leaning counties followed that guidance, other Republican ones refused to do so.
But state and federal courts in Pennsylvania have rejected GOP arguments that Boockvar's guidance ran contrary to the state's election code.
Still, Texas' lawyers argued in their brief seeking to undermine confidence in the state's results argued that such disparate policies sowed chaos, "preclude knowing who legitimately won the 2020 election, and threaten to cloud all future elections."
It is not clear if and when the Supreme Court intends to rule on either case, or any of the other petitions still before it tied to smaller-scale election battles arising from Pennsylvania.
But legal experts predict a swift decision. Tuesday is the federal deadline known as the "safe harbor date" for states to resolve all outstanding election disputes and lock-in their slates of delegates to the Electoral College.
Trump's allies argue that the deadline not a drop-dead date enshrined in the Constitution but rather a vague time limit established in a law passed by Congress in 1887, after another postelection standoff between President Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden the year before.
The courts could still ostensibly move to intervene in any challenge up until the electors cast their votes on Dec. 14, but the U.S. Supreme Court in particular has used the "safe harbor date" as a guideline in the past.
When deciding the disputed election contest between President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore in 2000, the justices cited the fast-approaching deadline as a reason that Florida did not have time to initiate another in a string of recounts that it had launched that year.