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Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry

The Republican Attorneys General Association, chaired by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a legal challenge of a ruling by Pennsylvania’s high court that allowed the counting of presidential mail ballots postmarked by Election Day but not arriving until Nov. 6.

Landry said Pennsylvania’s 253-member, Republican majority General Assembly has the authority to determine election procedures and legislators decided that mail ballots needed to be in hand at 8 p.m. Nov. 3. But the seven-member, Democratic majority Pennsylvania Supreme Court, citing problems with the U.S. Postal Service, unconstitutionally changed the legislative prerogative by allowing ballots to arrive late as long as they were mailed by Election Day, he said.

“In this particular case we believe that referees changed the rules of the game,” Landry said in a press conference announcing that nine GOP attorneys general would join Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in filing the amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar. The high court needs to decide this balance of powers issue, he added.

Republican Attorneys General Association filed a friend of the court brief asking for U.S. Supreme Court involvement in the presidential election

Though the brief cites some cases of fraud in the past, it did not allege widespread fraud during this election in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. Pennsylvania’s high court decision opened the door to possible fraud, the GOP attorneys general allege.

Landry said the Pennsylvania court’s action amounted to a voter irregularity.

“Any ballot received after 8 p.m. is an illegal ballot,” Landry said. “We want the Supreme Court to weigh in.”

“Overwhelming public evidence demonstrates that voting by mail presents unique opportunities for fraud and abuse, opportunities which unscrupulous actors have often exploited. The decision … exacerbated these risks,” the association’s brief stated. They cited as an example a mayor’s race in Berkeley, Missouri in which a candidate was indicted on five counts for changing votes on absentee ballots.

The Republican attorneys general noted that a database compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation showed 24 cases of election fraud in Pennsylvania since 2000.

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, won the necessary 270 electoral votes when Pennsylvania’s totals were announced Saturday. Since then, Arizona and Nevada announced for Biden bringing his electoral vote count to 290. That means that even if Pennsylvania’s late votes are thrown out, and that causes Biden to lose the state, he still will have won the overall election.

During the three days it took to count votes, Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and overturn the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to allow the counting of ballots arriving after election day. The nation’s highest court demurred on a 4-4 vote. Newly installed Justice Amy Comey Barrett did not participate.

Justice Samuel Alito ordered county registrars to segregate the ballots in question, writing “there is a strong likelihood that the state Supreme Court decision violates the federal constitution.” But the state had already ordered the late ballots segregated.

The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits in Pennsylvania, including an effort to stop Philadelphia election officials from counting ballots. A federal judge dismissed the request. The Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign also tried to stop the counting of 600 ballots in the Philadelphia suburbs of Montgomery County, which overwhelmingly backed Biden, on claims those mail ballots had failed to meet requirements by not being placed in a secrecy envelope.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.