Pennsylvania is ground zero for President Trump’s efforts to establish that he won the 2020 presidential race with all legal votes counted. While it is not the only state where Trump is contesting the results, without Pennsylvania, he has no viable path to a majority in the Electoral College.
Lawyers for Trump’s reelection team have raised several issues with how the commonwealth conducted the 2020 election, alleging voter fraud, a two-tiered system for mail-in and in-person voting, a lack of meaningful access for Republican poll watchers, and the acceptance of ballots after Election Day in violation of Pennsylvania election law.
Trump, who has not conceded the presidential race, has asked the courts to prevent the certification of the election in Pennsylvania. Here’s what you need to know.
What does the latest Trump lawsuit allege? The Trump campaign says Pennsylvania officials did not allow Republican poll watchers to do their jobs while also doing less to ensure the integrity of mail-in ballots, which favored Joe Biden, than in-person voting, which favored Trump.
“Democrat-majority counties provided political parties and candidates, including the Trump Campaign, no meaningful access or actual opportunity to review and assess mail-in ballots during the pre-canvassing meetings,” the complaint states.
Trump’s attorneys also argue that Pennsylvania mandates that mail-in ballots be processed and evaluated “on an entirely parallel track to those ballots cast in person,” while officials instead created an unconstitutional “two-track system.”
“Pennsylvania has created an illegal two-tiered voting system for the 2020 General Election, devaluing in-person votes,” the complaint reads.
What about late ballots? Pennsylvania state law requires mail-in ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, but the state Supreme Court ruled they could be counted if they were received by that Friday as long as they were postmarked by the time the polls closed on Nov. 3. The Trump campaign would like these additional ballots thrown out. Republican attorneys general in nearly a dozen states have filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the late votes from being counted.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered all of the county election boards in Pennsylvania to separate all late-arrival ballots from the rest of the mail-in ballots in a Friday night ruling. While it is unclear whether there are enough such votes to change the outcome in Pennsylvania, many legal experts consider this to be one of the Trump team’s stronger arguments for contesting the result.
Pennsylvania election officials were not permitted to process the mail-in ballots before Election Day, contributing to delays that saw Trump leading in the state for an extended period of time before Biden overtook him. The state’s Democratic secretary of state has asked for the Trump lawsuit to be tossed.
What about Rudy Giuliani? The former New York City mayor and Trump attorney held a press conference in Philadelphia alleging voter fraud. But Giuliani is also less focused on individual illegal ballots than challenging the process by which mail-in ballots have been counted and whether there was appropriate bipartisan supervision as required by law.
“The people you see behind me are just a few of about, I’d say 50 to 60 poll watchers, who will all testify that they were uniformly deprived of their right to inspect any single part of the mail-in ballots,” Giuliani said. “As you know, from the very beginning, the mail-in ballots were a source of some degree of skepticism, if not a lot of skepticism, as being innately prone to fraud.”
Giuliani has produced poll watchers who say they were made to stand too far away from the counting to see what was going on. He further alleges that the lack of inspection of the mail-in ballots puts hundreds of thousands of votes in question.
“Philadelphia is a professional place for voter fraud because you’ll have a decrepit Democrat machine that you have had in power for 60 years, and it’s the reason why you have voter fraud,” Giuliani said.
What do leaders in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature think? While they have been far more reluctant to assert fraud outright, they share concerns about the process and support an immediate audit of the results before they are certified. “I have no knowledge of any voter fraud, and I have no knowledge of any misdeeds, other than the process [by] which the Department of State ran in this election,” Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman told reporters on a Zoom call.
But state GOP leaders do want Republican poll watchers to have more access and have protested the high number of provisional ballots. They also disapprove of the court ruling extending the mail-in ballot deadline. “This judicial intervention created unnecessary chaos and uncertainty,” said state House Speaker Bryan Cutler. “The current election process has been chaotic and led to legitimate questions being raised about its integrity,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff.
What’s the bottom line? A legal victory for Trump would likely enforce the state’s Election Day deadline for mail-in ballots and secure a court-ordered recanvass of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas to weed out irregularities. Whether that would produce a political victory for the president in Pennsylvania remains to be seen.