Trump team says it’s suing to stop Pennsylvania vote count

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Despite falsely claiming to have won Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump’s campaign will launch a battery of last-ditch legal complaints aimed at halting vote counting in Philadelphia. The embattled president announced the challenge as mail ballot results showed his lead over Democratic opponent Joe Biden tightening.

Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, accused Democrats of “hiding” ballot counting from campaign poll watchers.

Philadelphia’s canvassing center is visible to the public through an online stream that went viral on Election Day. Philadelphia City Commissioners also granted live observers access to a viewing area some distance away from election workers.

“We are suing to temporarily halt counting until there is meaningful transparency and Republicans can ensure all counting is done above board and by law,” Clark wrote in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. The campaign said the 25-foot distance between observers and the election staff counting ballots around-the-clock inside the city’s Convention Center is too far to detect irregularities.

Pennsylvania has recorded no substantiated reports of election fraud thus far. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who helps oversee elections in Philadelphia, is a Republican and has repeatedly affirmed the integrity of the city’s voting process.

The move came about an hour after a similar effort in Michigan, where Trump is trailing Biden.

Clark’s assertions on Wednesday echoed similar –– and largely unsuccessful –– legal challenges filed by the campaign over the past month. State judges rejected similar motions filed by the campaign yesterday, which had also sought greater access to the ballot counting location inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

But the campaign also vowed to challenge other aspects of the election process in Pennsylvania.

Clark took a shot at Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democratic election official who has previously drawn ire from state Republicans, for issuing more expansive guidance around the counting of mail ballots. On Wednesday, the Trump campaign took issue with guidelines from Boockvar that allow mail voters with missing proof of identification to provide it after an initial deadline.

The Trump campaign also said it would seek to intervene in an ongoing Supreme Court case involving the deadline for receiving mail ballots, attempting to reverse an order allowing them to be counted up until Friday if they are postmarked by Nov. 3.

“With these key actions, President Trump is telling Americans he will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of this election,” Clark said.

Democratic sources said they had not yet seen some of the legal challenges described in Clark’s statement. But election lawyer Lauren Vidas said the efforts as described seemed primarily designed to delay and undermine confidence in the ballot counting.

“This is as much a PR maneuver as it is a legal maneuver,”  she said.

Vidas questioned the potential impacts of the courtroom challenges.

The Philadelphia lawyer and onetime City Council candidate said the campaign had repeatedly sought and been rejected in attempts to establish “a new standard” for poll watching that exceeds the terms of state election law.

Vidas said it was possible that the Supreme Court could side with Trump over late mail ballots. although the high court previously rejected attempts to shorten Pennsylvania’s ballot deadline.

Election officials do not yet know how many votes would be impacted by such a decision and it was similarly unclear how many voters needed to resubmit proof of identity. Vidas believes the numbers would be small.

“They’re trying to do a death by a thousand cuts,” she said.

GOP attorneys continued two other Election Day challenges in courtroom hearings Wednesday. Republicans filed the two lawsuits seeking to prevent voters whose mail ballots were disqualified for technical reasons from fixing it or casting a new ballot. One in federal court and another in state appellate court in Harrisburg.

One revolved around 49 votes in Montgomery County that Trump said were illegally processed before Tuesday for the purpose of allowing voters to fix problems with their ballots. Another, filed by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, sought to block the counting of an unknown number of provisional ballots cast by voters whose mail ballots had been rejected.

Boockvar has consistently argued the legality of the use of provisional ballots.

Democratic officials urged calm and patience. In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf condemned the sustained legal attacks on the state election process.

“In Philadelphia, officials are administering the election with the highest degree of transparency. There has been a livestream of the ballot-counting process available throughout the count, and all parties have canvass observers,” he said. “Pennsylvania will fight every attempt to undermine the election. We will count every vote.”

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