Pennsylvania High Court to Hear Trump Suit Over Election Observers

A worker scans mail-in ballots through a counting machine in Lancaster, Pa., last Wednesday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a case brought by President Trump’s campaign claiming election observers in Philadelphia weren’t allowed to watch ballot counting from a close enough distance.

The state’s high court will determine whether the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania erred last week when Judge Christine Fizzano Canno ruled that election monitors were being kept too far from the vote-counting process at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Cannon said poll watchers could get within 6 feet of counters.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which allowed the appeal from the Philadelphia Board of Elections, has yet to announce a date to hear arguments from the city and Trump’s reelection campaign. Both parties were ordered to have their briefs in by Friday.

In a brief responding to the city’s appeals petition, Philadelphia-based attorney Linda Kerns, representing Donald J. Trump for President Inc., wrote that election watchers had difficulty observing in the Philadelphia County counting room, “with the closest canvass table at least 15 feet away, and the farthest table approximately 100 feet away, with no ability to approach.” 

“CDC guidelines require only six feet,” the brief states. “The campaign should survey other counties and confirm that their procedures are consistent with CDC or other objective deadlines, proving that Philadelphia’s disparate treatment is arbitrary and capricious.”

Neither Kerns nor Philadelphia City Solicitor Marcel Pratt immediately returned a request for comment Monday afternoon.

The Trump campaign is currently involved in several other election-related lawsuits in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.

The campaign filed a new federal lawsuit Monday in Harrisburg accusing Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar of carrying out an “illegal ‘two-tiered’ voting system” that held voters to different standards depending on whether they voted by-mail or in-person.

“In-person voters had to sign voter registrations, have those signatures checked against voter rolls, vote in a polling place monitored by statutorily-authorized poll observers, and have their votes counted in a transparent and verifiable open and observed manner,” the Trump campaign said in a press release announcing the suit. “The state’s mail-in voting, which nearly 2.65 million votes were cast through, lacked all of the hallmarks of transparency and verifiability that were present for in-person voter.”

Trump supporters were criticized in October for videotaping voters at Pennsylvania ballot drop box sites.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the New York Times the taping could be considered voter intimidation.

“Pennsylvania law permits poll watchers to carry out very discrete and specific duties — videotaping voters at drop boxes is not one of them,” Shapiro, a Democrat, said at the time. “Our entire system of voting is built on your ballot being private and your choice to vote being a personal one. Depending on the circumstance, the act of photographing or recording a voter casting a ballot could be voter intimidation — which is illegal.”

Trump has refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, who gained enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency Saturday, and continues to push the false narrative that Democrats “stole the election” with “illegal votes.” 

“Pennsylvania prevented us from watching much of the Ballot count. Unthinkable and illegal in this country,” the president tweeted Monday, in a post stamped by Twitter with the warning label: “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Most media outlets have carefully reported on Trump’s claims of election fraud and subsequent lawsuits, wary that coverage could make the president’s arguments seem more meritorious than they are. The Trump campaign has failed to produce any evidence of election fraud.

Vox senior politics reporter Jane Coaston has referred to Trump’s barrage of suits as  “a media campaign masquerading as a legal campaign until proven otherwise.”

Mike Sacks, a politics and law reporter for Fox 5 New York, agreed.

“The lawsuits are no more than translations into legalese of the President’s tweets from the past six months seeking to undermine public confidence in the election results should he be – and now has been – defeated,” Sacks said.

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