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Federal Judge Dismisses Trump Campaign's Election Lawsuit in Pennsylvania

by on November 22, 2020 12:47 PM

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit that included Centre County's Board of Elections among its defendants and sought to block certification of Pennsylvania's votes. 

President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 in votes in Pennsylvania, one of several states where President Donald Trump has attempted to overturn the election through the courts, largely focused on mail-in ballot processes and party observer access to ballot canvassing.

Pennsylvania's result will become official when counties certify their totals on Monday and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar will then make her own certification.

In a scathing order, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann wrote that the Trump campaign had asked the court to disenfranchise 7 million voters and that he would expect when seeking such a drastic outcome, the campaign "would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption," to a degree the court would have no choice but to grant the proposed injunction that would impact such a large number of people.

"That has not happened," Brann wrote. "Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more."

The Trump campaign and two Pennsylvania voters filed the lawsuit on Nov. 9 in U.S. Middle District Court against Boockvar and the boards of election of Allegheny, Centre, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties.

The original complaint argued that mail-in votes were held to a different standard than in-person votes and did not require adequate identity verification. Without presenting evidence it claimed that Republican observers were not given "meaningful access" to mail-in ballot pre-canvassing and canvassing, that spoiled mail-in ballots for citizens who chose to vote in person were not properly handled and that provisional ballots (which are subject to verification before being counted) were given to out-of-state voters.

The only remaining claim by Saturday was that the equal protection rights of voters were violated in allowing counties to decide whether they would notify mail-in voters of technical problems with their ballots and permit them to fix them by Election Day. The two plaintiff voters in the lawsuit said their counties did not allow them to "cure" their ballots while other "Democratic heavy" counties did allow their voters to cure defective ballots.

"This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together from two distinct theories in an attempt to avoid controlling precedent," Brann wrote in dismissing the argument entirely.

Brann, a Republican who was appointed by President Barack Obama, wrote that both the campaign and individual plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the equal protection claims. The individuals failed to show the defendants were the cause of them being unable to cast their own ballots — neither lived in the defendant counties and could not show Boockvar was the reason they could not. 

"Plaintiffs seek to remedy the denial of their votes by invalidating the votes of millions of others. Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race," Brann wrote. "This is simply not how the Constitution works." 

The Trump campaign, he wrote, "has not pled a cognizable theory," as to why it should have standing or how the defendants unconstitutionally discriminated against the campaign.

The lawsuit is the last major remaining effort for Trump to overturn Biden's clear victory in the election.

Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a statement on Saturday night they would appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and that they expect it to ultimately make its way to the Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, meanwhile, said in a statement that the decision means Trump has exhausted his legal options and congratulated Biden on winning the presidency.

“With today’s decision by Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime conservative Republican whom I know to be a fair and unbiased jurist, to dismiss the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania," Toomey said. “This ruling follows a series of procedural losses for President Trump’s campaign... These developments, together with the outcomes in the rest of the nation, confirm that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and will become the 46th President of the United States."

“I congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory. They are both dedicated public servants and I will be praying for them and for our country."

Pennsylvania Attorney Genera Josh Shapiro applauded Brann's decision.

"These claims were meritless from the start and for an audience of one," he wrote on Twitter. "The will of the people will prevail. These baseless lawsuits need to end."

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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