Trump campaign brings new US Supreme Court challenge over Pennsylvania’s election

Workers on the hall floor at the Pennsylvania Convention Center count Philadelphia mail ballots on Nov. 4, 2020.


By JONATHAN LAI | The Philadelphia Inquirer | Published: December 20, 2020

PHILADELPHIA (Tribune News Service) — President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and overturn several decisions the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made regarding the 2020 election, saying the court overstepped its bounds and “the outcome of the election for the Presidency of the United States hangs in the balance.”

The campaign on Sunday filed a cert petition and a motion to expedite, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to fast-track the case because of the impending Jan. 6 meeting of Congress to receive the Electoral College results and the Jan. 20 inauguration.

The challenge doesn’t center on any claims of voter fraud, despite Trump’s repeated use of baseless conspiracy theories to attack the election. Instead, it challenges three Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions on mail ballots and says the state court overstepped its constitutional role.

Those opinions, which resolved multiple cases, prohibited counties from comparing mail ballot signatures to those on file; said campaigns and political parties can’t challenge ballots as they are being processed and counted; allowed limitations on observers to the vote count in Philadelphia; and allowed ballots to count even if voters had forgotten to fill out the address or date on the envelope.

In making those decisions, the campaign argues, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution in three ways: its due process clause; its equal protection guarantees, by treating ballots differently in different counties; and by taking the state legislature’s power to determine how federal elections are run.

“Collectively, these three decisions resulted in counting approximately 2.6 million mail ballots in violation of the law as enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature,” reads the petition for a writ of certiorari, the document which asks the Supreme Court to take up the case. If the state Supreme Court erred, the campaign said, that would mean “over 110,000 invalid ballots were illegally counted — more more than enough to have affected the outcome of the election, where the margin between the two principal candidates for President currently stands at 80,558.”

Federal courts have consistently protected ballots cast by voters relying in good faith on the election rules that were in place at the time, even if those rules are later deemed unconstitutional.

The Trump campaign asserts that even though the vote has already been certified and the Electoral College has already met, the court can still intervene because a separate group of Republican electors also met to provide dueling electoral votes for Congress to choose from.

And even if it’s too late to change this election, Trump can still run again: “The legal issues presented by this petition, namely, whether the alteration of state election laws by non-legislative officials in the states is unconstitutional, will likely recur in future elections — including in the presidential election in 2024, in which Petitioner is constitutionally eligible to run.”

The campaign is represented by John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University who wrote a controversial Newsweek op-ed questioning Kamala Harris’ eligibility for the vice presidency, and Bruce S. Marks, the Republican former state Senator from Philadelphia who appeared to lose his election in 1993 before a federal judge declared him the winner and found his opponent had engaged in absentee-ballot fraud.

Copies of the documents filed were provided by Marks and lawyers for other parties in the state cases.

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