Throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has done nothing to act as a check on the Governor’s power. They even ruled that ending Wolf’s emergency declaration would require more “YES” votes than an impeachment. Last week the Supreme Court released a decision where they essentially rewrote the Commonwealth’s election law. The Wall Street Journal editorial board gave a solid synopsis:
“Three days late, and no postmark needed: That’s the ruling on mail votes from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. State law clearly says absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. But on Thursday the court controlled by Democrats, in a case filed by Democrats, rewrote the law in a 4-3 vote, with four Democrats in the majority, 47 days before Nov. 3.
“‘ There is no ambiguity regarding the deadline set by the General Assembly,’ the court’s majority admits. To overturn it, they cite a line in Pennsylvania’s constitution: ‘Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.’ How does that language empower judges to ignore the ballot deadline? We’ll wait while readers search for emanations and penumbras.
The rest of the piece is worth reading, but it is behind their paywall.
It is worth noting that the House passed legislation making some changes to the election code three weeks ago. Since that time, it has languished in the Senate State Government Committee. If the Senate had promptly moved on the legislation, it would have made it much more difficult for the Court or Governor to take action on the matter.
The Court’s willingness to grant themselves broad legislative powers flies in the face of the idea of “equal” government branches. Essentially, the judiciary made itself a super-legislature in this instance, much like they did when they unilaterally rewrote the law in drawing congressional districts before the 2018 primary elections.
There will likely be federal lawsuits related to this decision. We will keep you posted as other choices are made by the courts related to this matter.