A group of Republican elected officials and voters in Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in state court on Monday in an effort to decertify the results of the 2020 general election.
The 29-page petition is a hodgepodge of complaints lodged against county election boards, statewide elections officials, the Democratic Party, Rock the Vote, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In short, the lawsuit tosses various gripes at the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania without any overarching theory of the fraud alleged.
“[T]he 2020 general election in Pennsylvania was fraught with numerous violations of Pennsylvania’s Election Code perpetrated by predominantly Democratic county election officials,” the filing reads. “In addition, there are countless documented election irregularities and improprieties that prevent an accurate accounting of the election results in the presidential election. Many of the irregularities directly relate to the county boards of elections’ handing of absentee and mail-in ballots; the pre-canvassing and canvassing of ballots; the failure to permit legally appropriate and adequate oversight and transparency of the process; and, the failure to maintain and secure ballot integrity and security throughout the election process.”
Specifically, the lawsuit claims to find fault with how Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) presented vote totals to Governor Tom Wolf (D).
Citing a state law that says the Keystone State governor “shall enumerate and ascertain the number of votes given for each person so voted for,” the GOP plaintiffs argue that Boockvar improperly enumerated and ascertained the votes herself before presenting the final tallies to Wolf, who then signed off on them.
In other words, the GOP is arguing that Wolf has to “enumerate and ascertain” with no help from Boockvar at all–and that since he didn’t do so, the entire vote certification must be rescinded and re-done.
“Plaintiffs submit that, where the returns of the election of presidential electors laid before defendant Wolf violates the code, defendant Wolf has no discretion to determine whether to enumerate and ascertain the illegal returns. Instead, the illegal returns must be rejected,” the filing reads. “Wolf and Boockvar have failed and refused to perform their respective legal obligations under Pennsylvania’s Election Code, including, but not limited to, their obligation to enforce and comply with the same.”
Notably, the plaintiffs do not argue that this proposed and Boockvar-free tally will change the result of the election whatsoever–but the Pennsylvania Republicans still want the court to issue a mandamus order requiring Wolf to do it all by himself anyway.
The lawsuit also dedicates several pages to a conspiracy theory regarding Pennsylvania’s Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system.
According to the lawsuit, Boockvar intentionally sandbagged efforts to firm up that framework in direct contravention of a performance audit report while allowing “select organizations with close ties to the Democratic Party with directly [sic] access to the Commonwealt’s SURE system.”
But the only organization mentioned is Rock the Vote, a non-partisan and non-profit civic participation group founded by a record company executive in 1990 which encourages young people, regardless of political affiliation, to register to vote.
The filing goes on to make ever more drastic claims with little in the way of supporting evidence.
One such claim is as follows:
Plaintiffs have obtained a sworn affidavit from Jesse Richard Morgan, who is contracted to haul mail for the United States Postal Service. Mr. Morgan’s affidavit alleges that he was directed to transport from New York to Pennsylvania what he believes to be completed Pennsylvania ballots in the 2020 General Election. … It is believed and, therefore, averred that this matter is currently under investigation by various entities and that such investigation is essential to the determination of whether or not approximately 200,000 ballots were delivered into the Pennsylvania system improperly or illegally.
“Pending such determination, there is no possible way that the validity of Pennsylvania’s presidential election could possibly be certified by the governor,” the filing continues–expressing a legal conclusion that is unlikely to be viewed favorably by a judge.
Additionally, the lawsuit finds fault with drop-off mail-in voting locations, with procedures that helped votes cure defective mail-in ballots and returns to the Trump campaign’s own hallmark grousing about how “authorized [campaign] representatives were routinely denied the access necessary to properly observe the handling of ballot envelopes and ballots during the pre-canvassing and canvassing process.”
The sum total of the sprawling lawsuit was not well-received by legal observers.
“My read is that this lawsuit can’t affect the safe harbor,” noted attorney Mike Dunford–referring to a federal law which mandates election reporting by December 8. “It’s a state law case, but not one filed under the election contest rules. (They can’t; elections contests had to be filed, if I’m reading the statutes right, within 20 days of the election.)”
Journalist Garance Franke-Ruta dismissed the complaint as a “frivolous” lawsuit meant to function as “a means of fundraising,” a common take on the GOP’s litany of litigation putatively aimed at undoing Joe Biden’s obvious win.
Many people questioned whether the steady stream of doomed-to-fail lawsuits, reprised complaints and all, would ever result in any consequences for the serially-defeated legal minds behind them.
“I suspect judges are trying to act with restraint to get the country through this, but at some point, an irate judge somewhere is going to pop off and impose sanctions,” suggested University of Alabama Law Professor and MSNBC legal analyst Joyce White Vance via Twitter.
To date, however, several dozen such lawsuits have been filed by–and effectively on behalf of–the Trump campaign. No sanctions have been issued against any of the various parties responsible for those failed and serially dismissed legal efforts so far. One attempt to win a sanctions ruling against Trump’s attorneys, filed by the City of Detroit, was dismissed by a judge in Michigan earlier this month.
[image via JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images]
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