A Pennsylvania county is asking newly sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from a controversial case weighing whether or not to grant an extension for counting mail-in ballots after Election Day.
The Luzerne County Board of Elections, in filing the motion on Tuesday, wrote specifically that President Trump’s rhetoric surrounding Barrett’s nomination and her swift confirmation to the Supreme Court just a week before the presidential elections are worrisome when pivotal rulings in voting issues could affect the outcome of the race.
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“The nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice this close to a presidential election is unprecedented,” the motion said. “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.”
Barrett was confirmed Monday by the Senate in a 52-48 virtual party-line vote. She is expected to begin work as a justice on Tuesday after taking the second of two oaths required of judges by federal law. No justice has assumed office so close to a presidential election or immediately confronted issues so directly tied to the incumbent president’s political and personal fortunes.
The recusal motion comes one day after the Supreme Court shot down a similar case involving Wisconsin Democrats, who asked that ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 but that may not have arrived by that date still be counted up to seven days after the election.
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Democrats argued that the flood of absentee ballots and other challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic makes it necessary to extend the period in which ballots can be counted. Wisconsin is one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, with hospitals treating a record high number of patients with the disease. It is also a crucial battleground state that Trump won by less than a percentage point in 2016.
Republicans had opposed extending the Nov. 3 deadline, saying that voters have plenty of opportunities to cast their ballots by the close of polls on Election Day and that the rules should not be changed so close to the election.
The U.S. Postal Service and several counties in battleground states urged voters to mail in their ballots by Tuesday, Oct. 27– exactly seven days before the election– to give ample time for delivery. Otherwise, officials are saying the best bet is to deposit ballots at a dropbox to make sure they are counted.
Earlier in September, Trump predicted that election issues will “end up in the Supreme Court” and said he wanted to fill any vacancies beforehand, despite pushback from Democrats who urged the seat formerly held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg should remain open until after the presidential election is over.
“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.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.