Trump campaign guts key Pennsylvania election lawsuit

USA & World

Trump campaign guts key Pennsylvania election lawsuit

The campaign of President Donald Trump has abandoned a key facet of a federal lawsuit it filed seeking to stop the certification of election results in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that Democratic candidate Joe Biden flipped.

A revised version of the lawsuit filed on Sunday dropped a request to invalidate 682,479 ballots because they were allegedly illegally processed without its representatives watching.

The slimmed-down lawsuit now focuses predominantly on its claim that Democratic voters were treated more favourably than Republican voters in some districts. It still seeks to block the certification of election results in the state.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that “Democratic-heavy counties” violated the law by identifying mail-in ballots before Election Day that were likely to be disqualified due to defects – including lacking an inner “secrecy envelope” or the needed signatures – and giving voters the opportunity to fix, or “cure”, those ballots.

A canvas observer photographs Lehigh County provisional ballots during vote counting in Allentown, Pennsylvania [Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press]The lawsuit contends that Republican-heavy counties that did not help voters to cure their ballot “followed the law”. However, there is no provision in state law that prohibits county election officials from helping voters fix a ballot that has a technical deficiency.

While it is unclear how many ballots are relevant to the allegations, lawyers representing the Democratic Party – who are intervening in the lawsuit – have said the new scope of litigation is too small to change the result of the state.

Media organisations, on November 7, projected Pennsylvania’s victory pushed Biden beyond the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the presidency. Biden leads in the state by nearly 70,000 votes.

The Trump campaign has accused news organisations of mischaracterising the change to the lawsuit, with spokesman Tim Murtaugh saying in a statement on Sunday the campaign had “strategically decided to restructure its lawsuit”, but the allegations of more than 600,000 ballots being counted in secret is still part of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Trump, on Monday, tweeted “harassment and exclusion of our Poll Watchers is a big part of our case” along with a link to right-wing website Breitbart’s interview with campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis.

No allegations of fraud

Cliff Levine, a lawyer representing the Democratic National Committee, told The Associated Press news agency that the new version of the lawsuit does not concern enough ballots to threaten to change the election results in the state.

“The numbers aren’t even close to the margin between the two candidates- not even close,” he said, according to the AP.

Levine also said the lawsuit does not include any allegations that people voted illegally – a major, and to-date unfounded, allegation pushed by Trump and his allies since the election.

On Sunday, Pennsylvania’s top election official, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, asked the judge to dismiss the case, which she said did not belong in federal court. Lawyers for the state said that state courts are the proper jurisdiction for the subject, and the lawsuit contains no “plausible claim for relief on any legal theory”.

The Trump campaign has pushed a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the election, but legal experts have said he has little chance of succeeding. Biden currently leads 290 electoral votes compared with Trump’s 232. In Georgia, where officials are conducting an audit of the results, Biden leads by a margin of 14,000 votes. The state would add 16 more electoral votes to Biden’s final tally.

Trump would need to win a series of long-shot challenges in several states to overturn Biden’s victory.

Pennsylvania is due to certify the election results on November 23.