Pennsylvania Supreme Court Agrees to Review Cases of Election Irregularities

November 18, 2020 Updated: November 18, 2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to take up cases in which the Trump campaign is challenging over 8,300 votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.

In an unsigned order (pdf), the state’s top court granted a request by the Philadelphia County Board of Elections asking the justices to take over the cases that have been appealed to the Commonwealth Court, a Pennsylvania appellate court.

The Trump campaign had appealed the cases after a trial judge denied five petitions requesting a review of the county’s board of elections decision to count votes that appear to have errors or irregularities because voters did not print their name or their address in the space provided on the outer envelope.

The trial court said that the ballot already contains the voter’s name and address on the pre-printed exterior envelope and that neither filling out the printed name and address sections are “requirements necessary to prevent fraud.”

“The envelope provided to the elector from the secretary of state of the commonwealth contains a direction in the form of a checklist on the back of the envelope that directs the elector to sign the declaration, but makes no mention of filling out the date or other information,” the orders state.

After the campaign appealed the cases, the Philadelphia County Board of Elections asked the state Supreme Court to “exercise extraordinary jurisdiction” because the campaign’s challenge would not only impact the rights of only 8,329 Philadelphia voters but voters throughout the state in this and future elections. It also argued that without urgent relief, it would threaten the election officials’ ability to meet reporting and certification deadlines.

Two of the justices dissented in the decision.

The Trump campaign is facing an uphill battle in its legal challenges filed in several battleground states aimed at protecting the integrity and accuracy of elections.

Trump and his campaign have been vocal about the need to protect the sanctity of the ballot box, arguing that only “legal votes” should be counted. They argue that mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 but received after Election Day shouldn’t be counted and that votes that were counted without Republican observers present in the ballot-counting centers should also be considered “illegal votes.” The campaign is also challenging allegations of irregularities occurring on election day or on mail-in ballots, such as the cases in Philadelphia county.

This comes a day after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled to reverse a lower state court decision that guaranteed Republican observers the right to watch ballot counts from no more than six feet away.

In a 5–2 decision, the court said the state’s election code does not set a minimum distance poll observers need to be in order to watch ballot counts and meet the laws’ requirements. The majority added that if the court imposes a distance requirement, as the lower court did, it would be improperly rewriting the statute.

This case is cited In Re: Canvass of absentee and mail-in ballots (89-93 EM 2020).

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan