The Supreme Court announced Friday it will take up two legal battles affecting President Trump and his administration.
One involves the legality of defections by Electoral College members who don’t cast their votes for the presidential candidates and their running mates who won the party vote in their states.
The other case involves the Trump administration’s decision to expand the exemption for religious organizations, excluding them from providing contraceptives, under the Affordable Care Act.
It was unclear when the justices will hear the health care coverage case, but the election issue is expected to be argued in April with a decision issued by the end of June.
Guidance from the high court before November could prevent conflicts arising during the 2020 election.
The presidential elector challenge comes after the Washington Supreme Court upheld fines against three 2016 electors who did not cast their votes for Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine in violation of state law. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kaine won the popular vote in Washington state.
The electors have challenged Washington’s law, saying it violates the Constitution, noting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled that individuals “‘are free to vote as they choose’ in the Electoral College,” in a similar case in Colorado.
Advocates seeking the high court’s review noted that in 2016 there were 10 out of the 538 electors who either voted or attempted to vote for candidates other than their party’s candidates.
“A swing by that same number of electors would have changed the results in five of fifty-eight prior presidential elections. And as the demographics of the United States indicate that contests will become even closer, there is a significant probability that such swings could force this Court to resolve the question of electoral freedom within the context of an ongoing contest,” the Washington state electors argued in court papers.
Nearly 30 states have laws requiring their electors to vote for the candidates picked by the voters in their state.
Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor charity were brought back to court by states after having previously won at the Supreme Court in challenges to the contraceptive mandate.
Under the Obama administration, churches were exempt from providing health care coverage that runs contrary to their teaching. But in October 2017, the Trump administration expanded exemptions from the contraceptive mandate to include a broad range of entities with sincerely held religious or moral objections to contraceptives.
The Little Sisters of the Poor and the Trump administration sought the high court’s review after a lower court sided with states challenging the expansion and issued a nationwide injunction.
Little Sisters’ senior official expressed hope for an end to what they call a “long legal journey.”
“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire. “We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all.”
The Little Sisters is a Roman Catholic religious order for women founded in the 19th century in France. Today the institute runs nearly 30 homes for needy, elderly people in the U.S., according to its website.
In its cert petition, attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pittsburgh noted the appeals court had failed to identify any employee who would be harmed by the Little Sisters’ not carrying birth control on their health plans.
• Christopher Vondracek contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
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