Breaking: Pennsylvania certifies election for Biden

The fat lady may not quite be singing, but she’s doing arpeggios as a warm-up. Pennsylvania certified its election this morning, formalizing its slate of 20 electors for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The move comes as Team Trump appeals a decision that kept them from blocking the certification:

Pennsylvania’s secretary of state on Tuesday certified the results of its presidential election, confirming that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump, Gov. Tom Wolf announced in a tweet.

The Keystone State’s certification of Biden’s victory came a day after Michigan certified that the former Democratic vice president had won its own election.

The Trump campaign is waging a long-shot legal effort in a federal appeals court to block Pennsylvania from awarding its Electoral College votes to Biden. Tuesday’s certification of the popular votes in the state might have made that court battle even more difficult for the Republican president.

Theoretically, yes it makes the appeal today at the Third Circuit more difficult. In practical terms, though, the election has been over for some time. Even if Team Trump wins today on appeal, all they win is a chance to file a third version of its lawsuit to stop certification. That means nothing more than returning to a prior version of their complaint that lacked evidence and scope for the remedy they sought — the overturning of the whole election.

They could still challenge the election after certification, but it becomes a steeper hill than even that which came before it. Absent actual evidence of widespread fraud, courts will be even more loathe to overturn a certification. And if they actually had evidence of widespread fraud in Pennsylvania that reaches the scope of Biden’s 81,000-vote margin, why didn’t they present it in court when they had the chance prior to certification?

Even that slim hope is more or less theoretical. Courts don’t like to intervene in elections anyway, and the Trump campaign hasn’t provided any good reason for these courts to start so far. If the Third Circuit wants an easy way out of this political mess, they have it now:

The Trump campaign and Republican allies had tried to halt the certification in Pennsylvania for weeks through a flurry of litigation, yet was constantly rebuffed by judges who found the effort lacked any evidence of fraud. The campaign had most recently asked the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals to block certification, but some legal experts have argued that if the state officially certified its results before the court made a decision, the case would be considered moot.

Arguably not, but it’s easy to bet that way, especially with the track record this case already has. Today’s action at the Third Circuit should be very interesting.