The Trump campaign says it’s launching an aggressive, multi-front legal effort to stop the counting of legitimately cast ballots in Pennsylvania.
Their gambit includes a move to intervene in a pre-election court fight — which the U.S, Supreme Court has already repeatedly declined to get involved in — over the Pennsylvania deadline for mail ballots to arrive at election offices.
Intervening in that legal dispute, which was initially brought by the state GOP and legislative Republicans leaders, could get the Trump campaign a fast-track to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Trump has predicted that his brand new appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, could provide the deciding vote to resolve the election.
“As the President has rightly said, the Supreme Court must resolve this crucial contested legal question,” Trump campaign deputy campaign manager Justin Clark said in a statement. “[S]o President Trump’s Campaign is moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s unlawful extension of the mail-in ballot receipt deadline.”
Additionally, according to Clark’s statement, the campaign will sue to stop ongoing processing of counting ballots — many of which are ballots that did arrive by Election Day.
The Trump campaign claims that its poll watchers aren’t being given proper access to observe those procedures — an allegation it’s made since the beginning of voting and in other states, though not one that’s got them very far in similar lawsuits brought elsewhere.
Clark’s statement said that there will be another lawsuit, alleging violations of the Help America Vote Act, because of Pennsylvania’s approach to letting absentee voters fix certain deficiencies on their ballots.
The dispute over mail ballot deadline had been viewed before the election as the biggest potential source of post-election chaos, as three U.S. Supreme Court justices have signaled their willingness to reject the late-arriving ballots if the court gets the chance to review the case again. If the high court does, it will also be the first opportunity that Barrett has to weigh in on the case.
But beyond whether Trump has the the Supreme Court votes, it’s also unclear if tossing the ballots would guarantee a Trump win, as Pennsylvania has hundreds of thousands of mail ballots received by Election Day still to count.
What kind of impact the other lawsuits could have is even harder to assess, without seeing the complaints themselves. In the minutes after the campaign announcement, only the Supreme Court motion had been available publicly.
Furthermore, it’s not yet clear that the election will come down to Pennsylvania.
It’s worth noting that that the new Trump campaign Supreme Court request, which was filed around the same time as the statement was released, is only a procedural move so far. The campaign didn’t add much to the substance of the dispute, in which Republicans are arguing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution in extending the ballot receipt deadline. Nothing in the filing urged the court to consider taking up the case any faster than they would have with just Pennsylvania Republican requests before it.
Pennsylvania election officials will likely spend several days counting the ballots, a reality that was long seen coming because of the GOP legislature’s refusal to adjust the counting timeline for the pandemic surge in absentee ballots. So the lawsuits could help Trump campaign sow confusion around that tabulation, while stoking evidence-free beliefs among Trump supporters that any election that he didn’t win was illegitimate.
Read the full Justin Clark statement below:
“This is the most important election of our lifetime, and President Trump made clear our path forward last night: ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation. Bad things are happening in Pennsylvania. Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and dilute Republican votes. President Trump and his team are fighting to put a stop to it.
“Pennsylvania’s unhinged, radical left Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has tried her hardest to bake in a backdoor to victory for Joe Biden with late, illegal ballots in collusion with the partisan state supreme court. The United States Constitution is clear on this issue: the legislature sets the time, place, and manner of elections in America, not state courts or executive officials. As the President has rightly said, the Supreme Court must resolve this crucial contested legal question, so President Trump’s Campaign is moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s unlawful extension of the mail-in ballot receipt deadline. The law is on President Trump’s side: as the Eighth Circuit just said, to change the ballot receipt deadline is in fact a change of the time, place, and manner of the election—and only a state legislature or the United States Congress can do that under the Constitution.
“In addition to the Trump Campaign’s motion to intervene in Pennsylvania Republican Party v. Boockvar, we are taking two additional critical legal actions today to ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election. We are suing to stop Democrat election officials from hiding the ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers—observers whose only job is to make sure every valid ballot is counted, and counted once. The eyes of the country are on Pennsylvania, but Pennsylvania has kept eyes off of the absentee ballot counting process all along, and that must stop today. In Philadelphia and elsewhere, Democrat officials forced our observers to stay 25 feet or more from the counting process, leaving no meaningful way whatsoever for our observers to do their jobs. We are also suing to temporarily halt counting until there is meaningful transparency and Republicans can ensure all counting is done above board and by the law.
“The Trump Campaign is also suing to stop Pennsylvania Democrats from breaking the very law that helps America vote—the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). While HAVA requires that states ensure certain first-time voters provide identification in order to vote, Secretary Boockvar—three days ago—re-wrote Pennsylvania Election Code to abuse her unilateral executive fiat and move the deadline for absentee and mail-in voters to provide missing proof of identification well past the deadline. Without our action, Pennsylvanians, and possibly all Americans, may be forced to wait yet another several days for the outcome of the election – all because of the Secretary’s ridiculous eleventh-hour guidance that directly violates the Election Code.
“With these key actions, President Trump is telling all Americans he will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation.”