Trump campaign drops key claim over election observers in Pennsylvania lawsuit

Election Bureau Director Albert L. Gricoski opens provisional ballots in Pottsville, Pa.
Election Bureau Director Albert L. Gricoski opens provisional ballots at the Schuylkill County Election Bureau in Pottsville, Pa., on Tuesday.
(Lindsey Shuey / The Republican-Herald)

President Trump’s campaign is withdrawing a central part of its lawsuit seeking to stop certification of the election results in Pennsylvania, where victory put Joe Biden over the top in the electoral college votes needed to capture the White House.

Ahead of a Tuesday hearing in the case, Trump’s campaign dropped the allegation that hundreds of thousands of mail-in and absentee ballots — 682,479, to be precise — were illegally processed without its representatives watching.

The campaign’s slimmed-down lawsuit, filed in federal court Sunday, maintains the aim of blocking Pennsylvania from certifying Biden’s win and continues its claim that Democratic voters were treated more favorably than Republican ones.


That claim calls for throwing out ballots cast by voters who were given an opportunity to fix mail-in ballots that were going to be disqualified for a technicality. The lawsuit contends that “Democratic-heavy counties” violated the law by identifying mail-in ballots before election day that had defects — such as lacking an inner “secrecy envelope” or a voter’s signature on the outside envelope — so that the voter could fix it and ensure that the ballot would count. The process is called “curing.”

Republican-heavy counties “followed the law and did not provide a notice and cure process, disenfranchising many,” the lawsuit said.

Cliff Levine, a lawyer representing the Democratic National Committee, which is seeking to intervene, said it isn’t clear how many voters were given the chance to fix their ballot.

For all the talk of hidden Trump support — what the president likes to call a “silent majority” — there are also Biden backers preferring to keep it quiet.

But, he said, it is minimal and certainly fewer than the margin — almost 70,000 — that separates Biden and Trump.

“The numbers aren’t even close to the margin between the two candidates,” Levine said. “Not even close.”

In any case, there is no provision in state law preventing counties from helping voters to fix a ballot that contains a technical deficiency. Levine said the lawsuit does not contain any allegation that somebody voted illegally.

“They really should be suing the counties that didn’t allow [voters] to make corrections,” Levine said. “The goal should be making sure every vote counts.”

Without using Biden’s name, Trump tweeted that ‘He won,’ something the president had not said before publicly.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh insisted that the campaign still contends that hundreds of thousands of ballots weren’t properly processed.

“Our lawsuit in Pennsylvania absolutely still makes an issue of the 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots that were counted in secret,” he tweeted.

But he did not explain why the campaign dropped the request in the lawsuit asking the judge to throw out those votes.

Pennsylvania’s top election official, Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, responded in court Sunday, asking the judge to dismiss the case. State courts are the proper jurisdiction for the subject, and the lawsuit contains no “plausible claim for relief on any legal theory,” the state’s lawyers wrote.

More than 2.6 million mail-in ballots were reported received by Pennsylvania counties, which meant that counting went on for days after election day, but there has been no report by state or county election officials or prosecutors of fraud or any other problem with the accuracy of the count.

A key theme of Trump and his supporters had been their claim that Philadelphia — a Democratic bastion where Trump lost badly — had not allowed Trump’s campaign representatives to watch mail-in and absentee ballots being processed and tabulated.

However, Republican lawyers have acknowledged in a separate federal court proceeding that they indeed had certified observers watching in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has said that ballot watchers from all parties had observers throughout the process and that “any insinuation otherwise is a lie.”