Friday, November 20, 2020

Pennsylvania lawyers ask judge to toss Trump’s bid to block Biden win – live | US news


The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports on the Trump campaign’s legal efforts in Pennsylvania:

Philadelphia election officials did not improperly block Donald Trump’s campaign from observing the counting of mail-in ballots, the Pennsylvania supreme court ruled 5-2 on Tuesday, a major blow to the president’s already flailing legal efforts.

The decision is significant because one of the Trump campaign’s loudest claims since the election has been that they were improperly blocked from observing the counting of ballots in Philadelphia.

While campaign observers were always allowed to observe, the campaign alleged they were being kept too far from the counting – about 15-18 feet – to make any meaningful observation. It secured a court order in the days after election day requiring Philadelphia officials to let observers within 6 feet.

But the Pennsylvania supreme court reversed that decision on Tuesday, noting that Pennsylvania law gives Philadelphia election officials wide discretion to decide the rules around observers.

“The Board did not act contrary to law in fashioning its regulations governing the positioning of candidate representatives during the pre-canvassing and canvassing process, as the Election Code does not specify minimum distance parameters for the location of such representatives,” Justice Barbara Todd, a Democrat, wrote for the five justice majority.

“We find the Board’s regulations as applied herein were reasonable in that they allowed candidate representatives to observe the Board conducting its activities as prescribed under the Election Code.”

Mark Joseph Stern

The decision was 5–2 because two justices wouldn’t have even decided the case, preferring to rule that it is moot. The principal dissent also explicitly says that throwing out valid ballots would not be an appropriate remedy anyway. This is a total loss for the Trump campaign.

November 17, 2020

Even the two Republican justices who dissented from the majority opinion disagreed with the idea, advanced by the Trump campaign, that legitimate votes should be rejected because of improper observation practices.

“Short of demonstrated fraud, the notion that presumptively valid ballots cast by the Pennsylvania electorate would be disregarded based on isolated procedural irregularities that have been redressed — thus disenfranchising potentially thousands of voters — is misguided,” Chief Justice Thomas Saylor wrote in his dissenting opinion.

“Accordingly, to the degree that there is a concern with protecting or legitimizing the will of the Philadelphians who cast their votes while candidate representatives were unnecessarily restrained at the Convention Center, I fail to see that there is any real issue.”

As a reminder, Joe Biden currently leads Trump in Pennsylvania by 72,832 votes.

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