Trump campaign lawsuit in Pennsylvania vote heads to court
A hearing on the Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to prevent Pennsylvania officials from certifying the vote results remains on track for Tuesday after a judge quickly denied the campaign’s new lawyer’s request for a delay.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann told lawyers for Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the counties and state election official it has sued that they must show up and “be prepared for argument and questioning” at the federal courthouse in Williamsport.
It also may feature Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and the president’s personal attorney, who filed Tuesday morning to represent Trump in the case. He has not entered an appearance in federal court since 1992, according to online court records. That was the year before he was elected mayor.
The Trump campaign wants to prevent certification of results that give President-elect Joe Biden the state’s 20 electoral votes, suing over election procedures that were not uniform across the state. Giuliani has promised a raft of lawsuits and to provide Trump with evidence of voter fraud in the drive to overturn the election result.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, has asked to have the lawsuit thrown out, calling its allegations in court filings “at best, garden-variety irregularities.”
Brann scheduled the hearing to discuss the campaign’s request for a temporary restraining order as well as the defendants’ request to have the case dismissed.
After Pittsburgh lawyers dropped out of representing Trump’s campaign on Friday, Philadelphia election lawyer Linda Kerns and two Texas lawyers also withdrew Monday.
Camp Hill lawyer Mark Scaringi, a losing candidate in the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary, notified the judge he was stepping in but did not get the delay he sought.
The Associated Press has declared Biden the winner of the presidential contest, but Trump has refused to concede and is blocking Biden’s efforts toward a smoother transition of power. With Georgia the only uncalled state, Biden has collected at least 290 electoral votes — just enough that overturning Pennsylvania’s result would not open an avenue to a second term for Trump.
Biden’s margin in Pennsylvania is now nearly 70,000 votes.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and experts say Trump’s various lawsuits have no chance of reversing the outcome in a single state, let alone the election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well, and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.
Trump’s campaign has also launched legal challenges complaining that its poll watchers were unable to scrutinize the voting process. Many of those challenges were tossed out by judges, some within hours.
Trump’s legal team has so far scored just two small victories. In one case, a court allowed their observers to stand a little closer to election workers processing mail-in ballots in Philadelphia. In another, Pennsylvania counties were ordered not to count mail-in or absentee ballots for which the voter didn’t submit valid identification within six days after the election, but that ruling is expected to affect no more than a few thousand ballots.
A slew of other legal challenges brought by Republicans have quickly been swatted down or withdrawn.
On Monday, a conservative group that has been pushing baseless claims that absentee voting is rife with fraud abruptly dropped lawsuits it had filed in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia with no explanation.
One Trump campaign case that is still pending seeks to block the certification of election results in Michigan, but the state appeals court on Monday denied another bid to stop the certification of Detroit-area votes.
In Pennsylvania, the Trump legal challenge being heard Tuesday centers on how some counties let voters fix, or “cure,” mail-in ballots that lacked secrecy envelopes or had other problems. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit claims counties’ inconsistent practices violated constitutional rights of due process and equal protection under the law and resulted in the “unlawful dilution or debasement” of properly cast votes.
“Democratic heavy counties,” the lawsuit alleges, notified voters about the lack of secrecy envelopes or other problems in time for some to fix them, but counties in Republican regions “followed the law and did not provide a notice and cure process, disenfranchising many.”
The lawsuit seeks to stop Boockvar and election boards in seven Biden-majority counties that are co-defendants from counting absentee and mail-in ballots that the Republican president’s campaign claims were “improperly permitted to be cured.”
Boockvar’s lawyers described Trump’s claims as generalized grievances and speculative injuries that would not warrant throwing out the election results.
They told Brann that other counties could have permitted their voters to fix problem mail-in ballots, but chose not to.
“Election practices need not cater to the lowest common denominator, and Plaintiffs’ arguments would improperly penalize those counties that are enfranchising voters by helping them avoid ballot disqualification,” they wrote.