Pa. Democrats file suit in state court to counter election rules case filed by Trump campaign

"There are many of us who represent diverse communities, … [who] understand that it is our duty to stand up, to protect the rights of Pennsylvanians to vote.”

  • Emily Previti/PA Post

Courtesy state Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny)

Democratic legislators announce a lawsuit aimed at blocking efforts by the Trump campaign to impose tighter rules on vote-by-mail and loosen restrictions on the eligibility of poll watchers.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is suing the state’s top elections agency and all 67 county election boards over the commonwealth’s vote-by-mail process.

Filed Monday in state court, the case focuses on ballot return deadlines, ballot drop off procedures and other mail-in voting issues. But it also seeks a court order that would essentially counter claims made in the federal lawsuit initiated two weeks ago by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

The Democrats’ suit, for example, seeks to maintain the current requirement that poll watchers reside in the county where they’re working. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit argues that Pennsylvania residents should be able to serve as poll watchers anywhere in the state.

Democrats also are asking the court to clarify that counties can come up with their own ballot collection plans and require counties to accept mail-in ballots submitted without a secrecy envelope. The Trump campaign’s suit in federal court seeks a narrower interpretation in both respect, specifically that ballots must be enclosed in a secrecy envelope to be counted, and that voters can only drop off ballots at an official county election board office (as opposed to satellite dropoff locations).

And the Democrats want the court to hold that ballots postmarked by Election Day can be accepted up to one week after polls close – the same deadline for military and overseas voters (and similar to the extension afforded a handful of counties during the June 2 primary).

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) appeared alongside other Democratic lawmakers Monday morning on the Capitol steps to announce the lawsuit.

“Pennsylvania is a battleground state and therefore has drawn national attention. But there are many of us who represent diverse communities, … [who] understand that it is our duty to stand up, to protect the rights of Pennsylvanians to vote,” said Street, who’s also vice-president of the state Democratic Party. “The Trump litigation seeks to suppress voting in a number of ways. … This is particularly pernicious in black and brown communities where folks have for years across the country, there’s been a history of people coming in to intimidate voters. There’s been a history of people coming in from the outside to cause voters … to be disenfranchised.”

Street, the state Democratic Party and others bringing the state court case filed a motion to intervene in the Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit late Monday; a coalition of voters and civil rights advocacy groups did the same late Wednesday.

Street and the Democratic Party are bringing the lawsuit along with U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D); state Sens. Anthony Williams (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) and Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia); and state Reps. Patty Kim (D-Harrisburg), Malcom Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), Isabella Fitzgerald (D-Philadelphia), Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia), Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia), Ed Gainey (D-Allegheny), Austin Davis (D-Allegheny) and Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh).

Democratic candidates Manuel Guzman Jr., who’s running for the state House, and Nina Ahmad, who’s running for Auditor General, also signed on as plaintiffs.

 

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect motions to intervene filed by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party Monday and a coalition of advocacy groups Wednesday.

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