‘The People Voted’ : Virginia Officials React to Supreme Court Decision

In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo the Supreme Court is seen as sundown in Washington. The Supreme Court rejected on Dec. 11,a lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, ending a desperate attempt to get legal issues rejected by state and federal judges before the nation’s highest court. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

By Brian Carlton, Ashley Spinks Dugan

December 11, 2020

Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that sought to overturn presidential election’s results in four states.

RICHMOND-It’s time to move on. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring made that statement Friday and a number of elected officials, Democrat and Republican, echoed those words after the Supreme Court decision came down. 

By a unanimous 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas. In the complaint, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, officials sought to overturn the results of the presidential election by invalidating millions of votes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Paxton argued Republican-controlled legislatures in the four states should be allowed to choose the electors, even though Democrat Joe Biden won each. He argued changes made to the voting process in each state was unconstitutional. More than 100 Republican members of the U.S. House signed on an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit. That list included Virginia’s Ben Cline (District 6), Morgan Griffith (District 9)  and Rob Wittman (District 1). 

Supreme Court Disagrees

But in their decision Friday, a united Supreme Court rejected the case. Seven justices said they wouldn’t even hear it. Justices Samuel Alito, with Justice Clarence Thomas agreeing, said he would have allowed the motion to be filed, but “[I}would not grant other relief.” 

The majority said Texas officials didn’t give a viable reason why they should intervene in how another state handles its elections. 

Friday’s order marked the second time this week that the court had rebuffed Republican requests that it get involved in the 2020 election outcome and reject the voters’ choice, as expressed in an election regarded by both Republican and Democratic officials as free and fair. The justices turned away an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Electoral College meets to formally elect Biden as the next president.

Three Trump appointees sit on the high court. In his push to get the most recent of his nominees, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed quickly, Trump said she would be needed for any post-election lawsuits. Barrett appears to have participated in both cases this week. None of the Trump appointees noted a dissent in either case.

RELATED: Who Chooses Virginia’s Electors? Well, That Depends.

Time to Move On

Since the ruling, Virginia’s lawmakers who supported the Texas lawsuit went quiet, not answering calls for comment. Others, on both the Democratic and Republican side, said it’s time to move forward. 

“SCOTUS saw this lawsuit for what it was, a blatant attempt to undermine the fair, free elections that are the bedrock of our democracy,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a Twitter post. “I hope that [the] SCOTUS’s quick dismissal will put a stop [to] any other attacks on our democracy. The people voted and Joe Biden is our next president.” 

Herring joined 23 other attorney generals to oppose the Texas lawsuit this week. In their brief, Herring and his colleagues pointed out the strange argument at the heart of the case. Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin made unconstitutional changes, Paxton argued. However, Texas made similar changes to its election practices this year, the group wrote. Yet Paxton said his state held “lawful elections.” 

Other officials, like Republican Denver Riggleman, said it’s time to move on. Riggleman serves as Virginia’s 5th District Representative in the U.S. House. He lost this year’s primary to Bob Goode, who went on to win in November. 

“With the dismissal by #SCOTUS of Texas AG allegations of systemic fraud, the November election has been decided….again,” Riggleman wrote in a Twitter post. “Congress needs to move forward NOW and work on COVID and small business relief. People over Political theatrics.”

Riggleman’s fellow member of Congress, Democrat and District 3 Rep. Bobby Scott, said those that supported the lawsuit should explain why. 

“Every member of Congress who signed the amicus brief should have to explain why they tried to undermine democracy by overturning the election and the will of the people,” Scott wrote in a Twitter post.

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So What Happens Now?

So what happens next? Well now, things move forward just like any normal election.

Each state receives a number of electors equal to its representation in Congress. Virginia has two senators and sends 11 members to the U.S. House of Representatives. Thus, it has 13 electors. 

State political parties choose their electors for the Electoral College. Both the Democratic and Republican Party chose their 13 earlier this year, but only the group from the winning party makes the trip to the state capitol. Virginia allocates all its electoral votes to the winner of the state’s popular vote. 

The Virginia Code requires electors to cast their vote for the popular vote winner. Five states already issue penalties for electors that neglect that duty. The Supreme Court upheld their right to do so after a challenge of $1,000 fines for faithless electors in Washington. 

In any case, rebellious electors are very unusual. In U.S. history, records show only 165 “faithless” votes cast, 90 for President and 75 for Vice President. Nearly 70% of those electors switched because the original candidate died. 

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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