Philadelphia asked the state’s highest court to reverse a ruling allowing observers with President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party to get within six feet of the ballot-counting process, arguing a state law designed for transparency includes no such requirement.
The state’s election code only requires that party and candidate representatives “be permitted to remain in the room” where mail-in and absentee ballots are processed, lawyers for the heavily Democratic city said in a filing Wednesday evening in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
“The election code does not say that representatives have the right to be able to read the language written on each ballot declaration or otherwise to make their own determinations of declaration sufficiency with respect to individual ballots,” the city said in the filing. “No such right exists.”
A ruling favoring the city would hurt Trump’s chances in a related federal lawsuit seeking to block Pennsylvania from certifying the election results on the grounds that observers weren’t able to properly watch the processing of hundreds of thousands of ballots. During a hearing this week in that case, a judge told lawyers to provide him a copy of the appeals court decision “the moment it issues.”
Philadelphia seeks reversal of a Nov. 5 decision in the state’s commonwealth court that the campaign touted as a major victory in Trump’s ongoing legal effort to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.
Read More: Trump Legal Blitz Won’t Impact Pennsylvania Vote, State AG Says
Trump and GOP allies have made the observation process a central element of their unsubstantiated claim that rampant fraud involving mail-in ballots went unnoticed because observers weren’t allowed to watch properly in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada.
Under Philadelphia’s initial canvassing rule observers were kept about 15 feet away, behind waist-high barriers. The city says that was “reasonable considering the need to effectively conduct the business of counting ballots and the restrictions imposed by the distancing requirements of the Covid pandemic.”
A lower court “found as a fact“ that the campaign’s representative had an unobstructed view of the canvassing and was “free to walk around the premises” and watch every stage of the canvassing process, Philadelphia said. A Trump campaign observer agreed in court that he’d been “in the room” the entire time, the city said.
Trump and GOP lawmakers have alleged widespread voter fraud propelled Biden to victory, though election officials — including Republicans — have said no such fraud took place.
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