Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. is insisting he has a legitimate basis for using Indiana taxpayer resources to intervene in a Pennsylvania mail-in ballot lawsuit the Trump campaign is hoping will get it closer to winning the Keystone State.
In a statement, the Hoosier Republican claims the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overstepped its authority by setting Nov. 6, instead of Nov. 3, as the deadline for mail-in ballots, voted on or before Election Day, to be received by local election officials in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the extended ballot receipt deadline, made in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. Postal Service delays, is wholly consistent with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution and its mandate that all aspects of the electoral process be open and unrestricted so as not to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters.
Hill said under the U.S. Constitution it's state legislatures — not state courts — that are responsible for enacting the laws that govern federal election processes in their jurisdictions, and Indiana has an interest in ensuring the same rules are followed across the country.
"Our ultimate aim is to preserve the constitutionally mandated allocation of authority in state legislatures to establish federal election rules so fundamental to the proper function of our democratic republic," Hill said.
"Further, we are carrying out a responsibility that falls squarely within the domain of state attorneys general — the obligation to defend the rule of law within our own states and in matters nationwide affecting our constituents."
The attorney general's office did not respond to repeated requests to identify the Indiana statutory provision authorizing the attorney general to intervene in federal lawsuits that do not directly involve Indiana as a litigant.
The U.S. Supreme Court also has not indicated when it might rule on the Pennsylvania Republican Party's request to disqualify the approximately 10,000 Pennsylvania mail-in ballots received between Nov. 3 and Nov. 6.
In any case, the decision will not change the election outcome in Pennsylvania where Democratic President-elect Joe Biden leads Republican President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes.
Hoosier Democrats have criticized Hill for wasting Hoosier tax dollars on the lawsuit, most recently state Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, the top Democrat on the Indiana Senate Elections Committee and a graduate of Purdue University Northwest in Hammond.
Ford said in a letter to Hill that it's wrong, particularly during a global pandemic and economic crisis, for Indiana's attorney general to use scarce state resources to attempt to cast doubt on election results, especially in another state.
"I would sincerely request that your office withdraw Indiana's participation in this surely fruitless endeavor," Ford said. "The use of taxpayer funds for a nakedly partisan lawsuit is fiscally irresponsible."
In response, Hill said "those who have mischaracterized our purpose have either not actually read our briefs or are unconcerned with the truth."
"The U.S. Supreme Court has correctly stated previously that courts should not attempt to usurp the authority of state legislatures in matters related to election law. We have simply asked the court to continue to uphold this basic principle," he said.
The attorney general's office did not respond when asked whether Hill considers Biden to be president-elect, or whether Hill would seek a federal post in a second Trump term if somehow the Republican president succeeds in his legal efforts in various states to overturn the will of American voters.
The Indiana Republican Party declined in June to renominate Hill for a second term after the Indiana Supreme Court concluded Hill committed misdemeanor battery in 2018 by groping four women at an Indianapolis bar.
He'll soon be succeeded as attorney general by former U.S Rep. Todd Rokita, a Republican originally from Munster.