While it may not have been a complete surprise that Clarence Thomas dissented from his more liberal colleagues in a Supreme Court election case on Monday, what is causing some head whips is his apparently firm support for former President Trump's debunked claims of election fraud. The case the high court declined to hear came out of Pennsylvania, where Republicans challenged an extension to the deadline for mail-in ballots due to the pandemic. Thomas, along with Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, disagreed with their colleagues' decision to turn the case away, with Thomas arguing that even though the number of affected mail-in ballots wouldn't have turned the election in Trump's favor, the Supreme Court still should have addressed the underlying legal questions in case future votes see a narrower gap. His reasoning, however, as laid out in a 11-page dissent, relied partly on baseless fraud claims pushed by Trump and his allies, reports USA Today.
Thomas' argument, which mentions "fraud" 10 times, per CNN: that even though rampant fraud wasn't evident in the Pennsylvania case, mail-in ballots are especially vulnerable, and "an election free from strong evidence of systemic fraud is not alone sufficient for election confidence." He also quoted a New York Times article calling fraud risk "vastly more prevalent" for mail-in ballots than during in-person voting—the same article said "fraud in voting by mail is far less common than innocent errors"—and mentioned "the high degree of subjective judgment" in tallying ballots. Alito and Gorsuch's dissent didn't bring up fraud. Per Slate, voter fraud with mail-in ballots is "vanishingly rare." CNN notes that Thomas' wife, Virginia Thomas, has also pushed the fraud narrative. Prominent Democrats are pushing back, and a UC-Irvine election law expert suggests Thomas shouldn't even have addressed it, telling USA Today it's an issue "wholly divorced from the actual legal question in the case." (Read more Clarence Thomas stories.)