Pennsylvania GOP Files Federal Lawsuit To Allow Out-Of-County Poll Watchers

Paul Sancya

The Pennsylvania Republican Party filed a complaint late Friday night asking a federal court to allow out-of-county poll watchers to monitor voting stations on Election Day.

Filed on behalf of eight Keystone State voters, the suit alleges that state law restricting poll watchers to the county in which they’re registered violates the First Amendment and denies them their right to equal protection under the law.

Donald Trump has raised unfounded fears that the Nov. 8 election will be “rigged” by illegitimate ballots cast by undocumented immigrants, people voting multiple times, and “dead people.” All of them, he claims, will vote for Hillary Clinton.

He has called on his supporters to go “watch” voters in “certain areas” to ensure no fraud is committed, directing them to communities with large black populations like Philadelphia and Chicago.

Elections experts and secretaries of state have condemned his comments as dangerous and untrue, noting that voter fraud is extraordinarily rare. Invalid voter registrations are typically the result of outdated record-keeping rather than willful fraud.

Still, Republican Party of Pennsylvania GOP Communications Director Megan Sweeney told the Morning Call that the state party’s federal suit was simple “a commonsense remedy to ensure the fairest election possible.”

University of California law professor Rick Hasen, who runs the Election Law Blog, noted the “awfully late” date of the suit in a Friday post and said the U.S. Constitutional issues at hand seem “exceptionally weak.”

“The argument is that the failure to allow some voters within the state to serve as poll watchers violates equal protection, due process and First Amendment speech rights,” Hasen wrote. “I have never seen such an argument not extended to the act of voting, but to the act of watching at the polls.”

“I cannot see how this severely burdens voters’ rights,” Hasen continued, saying he doesn’t think the federal arguments “have much of a chance of going anywhere.”

A spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) concurred, calling the suit baseless.”

“It is shameful that the Pennsylvania Republican Party has joined Donald Trump in his dangerous claims of widespread voter fraud in Pennsylvania," spokesman Jeff Sheridan told the Morning Call, accusing the GOP of “trying to cause chaos and disruption."

The suit was filed in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Keystone State’s Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortes, a Democrat.

Read the full complaint below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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