President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, the national Republican Party and four Pennsylvania Republican members of Congress, on June 29 filed a federal lawsuit opposing Pennsylvania’s decision to expand mail-in voting ahead of November’s elections.
The federal lawsuit (pdf) filed Monday in Pittsburgh sues Pennsylvania’s secretary of state Kathy Boockvar, and 67 county election boards. It claims that as voters jumped to make use of the greatly broadened eligibility for mail-in ballots during the June 2 primary, practices and procedures by elections officials ran afoul of state law and the state and federal constitutions.
“To be free and fair, elections must be transparent and verifiable,” the lawsuit reads. “Yet, Defendants have inexplicably chosen a path that jeopardizes election security and will lead—and has already led—to the disenfranchisement of voters, questions about the accuracy of election results, and ultimately chaos heading into the upcoming Nov. 3, 2020 General Election.”
“Free and fair elections are essential to the right of Americans to choose through their vote whom they elect to represent them. Upending our entire election process and undermining ballot security through unmonitored by-mail voting is the single greatest threat to free and fair elections.”
The issues are a “direct result” of the state’s “hazardous hurried, and illegal implementation of unmonitored mail-in voting,” the federal lawsuit claims.
A spokeswoman for Boockvar, a Democrat, declined to comment about the litigation, as did the head of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, whose members administer elections.
A law was passed in the state last year to expand mail-in ballot options to anyone who wanted to vote by mail even if they did not have a valid reason that would prevent them from voting in person.
The lawsuit claims the new system gives “fraudsters an easy opportunity to engage in ballot harvesting, manipulate or destroy ballots, manufacture duplicitous votes, and sow chaos.”
Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them. Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2020
President Donald Trump has publicly criticized voting by mail, saying it paves the way for potential voter fraud.
“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it,” Trump tweeted in April. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
“Absentee Ballots are a great way to vote for the many senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day,” he added. “These ballots are very different from 100% Mail-In Voting, which is ‘RIPE for FRAUD,’ and shouldn’t be allowed!”
Attorney General William Barr last week echoed Trump’s stance on the security of mail-in ballots, saying that elections that are conducted predominately through vote-by-mail could open up “many occasions for fraud … that cannot be policed.”
“I think there’s a range of concerns about mail-in ballots. And let me just clarify here. I’m not talking about a mail-in ballot for a limited number of cases where somebody, you know, is going to be traveling around the world, and the way that the state has provided for that is, you mail in your ballot,” Barr told NPR during an interview on Thursday.
“I’m talking about a comprehensive rule where all the ballots are essentially mail-in, and there’s so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed,” he added.
Democrats argue that mail-in voting options are necessary in order for voters to comply with public health recommendations to reduce gatherings due to the pandemic.
Barr did not give any specific examples of fraud that led to his concerns but noted that he was concerned about the possibility that ballots could be counterfeited, adding that the ballots are “pretty primitive.”
He also believes that mail-in voting could be targeted by foreign countries that “want to sow discord in the United States by undermining confidence in the results of the election.”
Janita Kan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.