Split Pa Supreme Court overturns one of Trump’s rare legal victories in Keystone state vote challenge


A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned one of President Donald Trump’s few legal victories in his high-profile challenge to the validity of Pennsylvania’s vote count.

In a 5-2 decision, the judges overturned a Commonwealth Court ruling that ordered Philadelphia election officials to allow observers representing Trump and other candidates to be within six feet of where the votes, in particular the tidal wave of postal and postal ballots, are being counted.

The Supreme Court majority then restored a Philadelphia judge’s ruling that election officials could station observers at more distant vantage points as a precaution against COVID-19.

Judges Debra Todd, Max Baer, ​​Christine Donohue, Kevin M. Dougherty and David N. Wecht approved the overthrow. Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy were dissenting.

In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Todd cited arguments from Philly officials that they had to keep observers in fenced areas 15 to 18 feet from the vote count at the Philadelphia Convention Center to ensure social distancing precautions. for COVID-19, to ensure the counting of hundreds of thousands of postal and postal ballots took place in the most efficient manner possible and to ensure voter confidentiality

Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon reversed Judge de Philly’s order, concluding that the law required observers to come close enough to the count to allow “meaningful” observation of the process.

Philly officials appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case last week. The ballot count still continues in the City of Brotherly Love, although the unofficial statewide tally shows Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential race in Pennsylvania.

Reversing Cannon’s decision, Todd concluded that the initial restrictions on observers allowed for meaningful observation. Todd cited the testimony of a Trump campaign watcher who said he could see what was going on. This shows that the observers were “able to observe appropriately that the employees of the board of directors were performing their duties under the electoral code,” she noted.

“In summary, we conclude that the (Philly Elections) Board did not act against the law in developing its bylaws governing the positioning of candidate representatives during the pre-marketing and canvassing process, as the Election Code does not specify no minimum distance settings for the location. of those reps, ”Todd wrote. “Critically, we believe that the council regulations as applied here were reasonable in that they allowed candidates’ representatives to observe the council conduct its activities in accordance with the electoral code. “

In his dissenting opinion, Saylor argued that his court did not need to intervene in the case since the counting of the votes is nearing completion. “In addition, the Legislature is already signaling that there will be a thorough after-action review of the no-excuse mail-in system, which is in its infancy in Pennsylvania,” he wrote.

Mundy said in his dissenting opinion that the Trump campaign “was simply asking for the ability to be able to observe ballots in order to accurately relay compliance information …

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