President Donald Trump’s campaign has filed yet another version of its lawsuit over the election results in Pennsylvania, now contending that he should be named the victor in the presidential contest there or that the state legislature be given the authority to assign the state’s 20 electoral votes.
The third iteration of the suit also restores legal claims dropped in the second version that the campaign’s constitutional rights were violated because of allegedly inadequate access for observers during the processing of mail-in ballots.
The campaign eliminated those claims in a version of the suit filed on Sunday, but Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said that was due to a miscommunication prompted by harassment and threats directed at lawyers who represented the campaign.
The new complaint claims 1.5 million mail-in or absentee votes in seven Pennsylvania counties “should not have been counted” and that the disputed votes resulted “in returns indicating Biden won Pennsylvania.”
The new pleading also continues to pursue an unusual tack for Republicans: invoking international standards to assess the legitimacy of U.S. election procedures. Trump campaign lawyers also leveled bitter criticism at a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision Tuesday that found, by a vote of 5-2, that access for election observers was adequate even if they could not see the details of individual ballots.
“In contrast to the 2002 International Electoral Standards … the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck out in a unique direction among democracies and declared that meaningful observers are not part of verification and votes may be counted without any review by political campaigns and parties,” the Trump campaign’s new complaint says.
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion that declared that the law only requires that observers be present, is a patently inconsistent opinion by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, as many Pennsylvania counties followed the law, logic, and tradition of employing observers to not only be present but to ensure the elements of the election code were being strictly followed,” the suit said. “This disparate treatment between Pennsylvania counties created a textbook example of an Equal Protection violation, prohibited by the Unites [sic] States Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore).”
The new complaint also comes close to accusing the judges of Pennsylvania’s highest court of political bias, the kind of accusation that is common in newspaper editorials and cable news shows but rarely appears in federal court pleadings filed by experienced attorneys.
The latest version of the Trump campaign’s suit was filed one day after a hearing held in federal court in Williamsport, Pa., about an hour-and-a-half north of Harrisburg.
During the five-hour session, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann sounded skeptical that the most sweeping relief sought by the Trump campaign — throwing out hundreds of thousands of votes, or perhaps more than a million — was justified by problems with poll watching or disparate procedures for “curing” defective mail-in ballots.
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, and the seven counties named as defendants in the suit have asked Brann to throw it out. They contend the Trump campaign and the two Pennsylvania voters who are also plaintiffs in the case lack legal standing to pursue their claims in federal court.
Trump’s side filed a formal request Tuesday to force disclosure of records related to the election, including copies of the outer envelopes of mail-in ballots that were counted. The Trump campaign’s lawyers are also seeking a hearing where they can present live witnesses to discuss the alleged deficiencies in the election observing process.
Brann had scheduled such a hearing for Thursday, but he canceled it at the conclusion of the arguments Tuesday, leading to speculation that he might throw the case out.
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