U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the conservative and only Black member, is facing backlash—again. Twitter users came for Justice Thomas after he disagreed with his colleagues’ decision to ignore a dispute over absentee ballots in Pennsylvania during the 2020 presidential election.
Republicans, motivated by Trump’s accusations of widespread election fraud, had brought a lawsuit against Pennsylvania to the Supreme Court. It charged that the state Supreme court didn’t have the authority to extend the deadline for turning in absentee ballots. The lawsuit alleged that since state legislatures hold all power to determine election laws, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made an unconstitutional pandemic-inspired decision to extend the deadline for absentee ballots an extra three days.
Four justices would have needed to vote to hear the case for it to move forward, but only three did—Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas.
Still, even if the Supreme Court were to throw out all of Pennsylvania’s absentee ballots turned in during those extended days, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome in the Electoral College. Joe Biden won Pennsylvania with 80,555 more votes, with only 10,000 of them counted during the extended week.
But Thomas, whose wife cheered on Trump supporters at the Stop the Steal rally hours before it became violent, wanted to make his opinion known.
“That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent.
Democrats and Republicans clashed in the state for months leading up to the election over whether limits imposed by the Coronavirus would hinder Americans’ constitutional right to cast a ballot. In a 4-3 decision, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Democrats’ arguments, citing the need to extend the deadline in order to ensure free and fair elections.
Ultimately, the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court ruled the case moot, dealing a death blow to the GOP’s swarm of election-related lawsuits.
Arguing that Trump supporters faced “irreparable harm” due to Pennsylvania’s decision, Thomas claimed the decision not to hear the case opens up the door for widespread fraud in future elections. “If state officials have the authority they have claimed, we need to make it clear,” Thomas dissented. “If not, we need to put an end to this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic.”
But many on Twitter weren’t having it. “There are clear rules, which were followed. The insurrection failed.” One user on Twitter wrote, responding to a thread from a Politico reporter.
There are clear rules, which were followed. The insurrection failed.
— Blasine Astolat (@BlasineA) February 22, 2021
A few tweets were supportive of Thomas, with a user writing “SCOTUS not hearing that case is a stain on the Court’s history and should be recognized as such. No other venue could have heard that case and SCOTUS dismissing it on standing is one of the great tragedies of our time.”
But the majority of social media users’ attitudes toward Thomas’s dissent could be summed up in a tweet calling out his wife. It also put respect on the name of Anita Hill, a former aid of Thomas who famously accused him of sexual misconduct in his Confirmation hearing in the ‘90s.
Gee, I wonder how much influence Justice Thomas's wife had on his dissent. This man should not be a Justice on any court, much less the SCOTUS. Anita Hill was right and tried to tell us. When will his wife be charged for her role in the insurrection?
— chas (@chas8415) February 22, 2021
Trump and the GOP will have one more chance to challenge state election outcomes, this time in Wisconsin, when the Supreme Court hears the case in a closed-door meeting on March 5.