Question about Pennsylvania Ballot Lawsuit?

I know, as a general rule that federal law  trumps state law, I know that a state constitution has to comply with the US Constitution.

I have read many times state law cannot be appealed to US Supreme Court. So, for example, when Massachusetts Sup Court ruled gay marriage back in 2003, the US Supreme Court wasn't allowed to review it because a federal ? wasn't challenged.

What confuses me is, the Penn. Supreme Court ruled that ballots received 3 days after the election would still be counted. I don't even know how, but it was appealed to SCOTUS & I just read on FiveThirtyEight "The order from the Supreme Court justices wasn’t a ruling (there wasn’t even an explanation of their reasoning), and it didn’t uphold the state court decision. The justices merely split on the question of whether the state Supreme Court ruling should be blocked..."

So now they're saying a federal lawsuit is being filed in hopes that Amy gets on there could be a different result.

But, I thought it went like this:

1. Federal Judge 2. Federal Court of Appeals. 3. Federal En Banc Court 4. SCOTUS

1. State Judge 2. State Appeals Court 3. State Supreme Court/Court of Appeals

So how did SCOTUS decide not to review the PA Sup Crt, I thought they couldn't even possibly hear it? I don't get how SCOTUS could review what basically would be the same question they decided not to review ( that I don't see how they could have anyway), just a couple weeks from now on Nov 3 about whether to count those ballots

2 Answers

  • 1 month ago

    State laws are appealed to the SCOTUS all the time.  The case  you are citing is a perfect example.

  • 1 month ago

    A state Supreme Court ruling can be appealed to the SCOTUS if it potentially impacts a federally-incorporated right - like the right to have all votes treated equally.  Or, if it directly affects a federal issue - like the Florida vote did in 2000.

    By not agreeing to hear the Pennsylvania case, the state ruling stands as is.  If the plaintiffs had been able to convince the Justices that a federal issue was impacted, they could have agreed to hear it.  Doesn't mean the plaintiffs would have won, just that they could have been heard.

    In your example of same-sex marriage: SCOTUS did not take up the Massachusetts case because there was no federal issue.  If a state tried to ban same-sex marriage today, it would be taken up by SCOTUS, because there is now a federal issue.

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