A Commonwealth Court judge in Pennsylvania on Wednesday temporarily blocked the state, pending a Friday hearing, from completing certification of its 2020 election result—to the extent it is not already completed—in a lawsuit filed by a Republican congressman attempting to thwart his own victory. It’s not entirely clear what this means, given that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed the Certificate of Ascertainment on Tuesday officially appointing the state’s slate of electors for President-elect Joe Biden.
The action was filed by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and a group of GOP plaintiffs who claim Gov. Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) violated the commonwealth’s constitution by allowing universal mail-in voting to occur for the 2020 election. Specifically, Kelly and the plaintiffs argue the state constitution allows either in-person voting or “four limited, exclusive circumstances” where “absentee voting is authorized.”
Plaintiffs requested an injunction barring Pennsylvania election authorities from “certifying collected votes,” or alternatively, a court order directing that “the Pennsylvania General Assembly choose Pennsylvania’s electors.” Both forms of extreme relief would, in effect, hand Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to President Donald Trump.
The irony here is that Rep. Kelly won his election against Democratic nominee Kristy Gnibus, and is thereby seeking to prevent his own win from being certified.
In a brief two-page order, Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough—a Republican—appeared to halt the certification process without clarifying what exactly that means.
“[T]o the extent there remains any further action to perfect the certification of the results of the 2020 General Election for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States of America, Respondents are preliminarily enjoined from doing so, pending an evidentiary hearing,” she wrote, scheduling the proceeding for Friday. “[I]nasmuch as Respondents, based on their Press Release and briefs, have not undertaken certification of any of the other results of the Election, Respondents are preliminarily enjoined from certifying the remaining results of the Election, pending the evidentiary hearing.”
Several attorneys and election law experts said the court’s Wednesday ruling won’t affect the results of the election and the case is very likely to be dismissed in the near future.
“This order comes in a bonkers lawsuit that claims all vote-by-mail in Pennsylvania was illegal, rendering the election for every office a nullity,” wrote UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen. “This won’t stick as the case works its way up the food chain.”
University of Kentucky law professor and election law expert Josh Douglas similarly said “relax” because the case “isn’t going anywhere.”
Relax, people. This isn't going anywhere–especially given the composition of the PA Supreme Court. https://t.co/fwKIfMi7dH
— Josh Douglas (@JoshuaADouglas) November 25, 2020
Democratic Party and Biden campaign attorney Marc Elias not only said the complaint’s dismissal was inevitable, he also recommended that the House of Representatives look into why Rep. Kelly thinks his own election victory shouldn’t be certified.
“Congressman Mike Kelly has asked a PA judge to block certification of his own election,” Elias wrote. “Even after this lawsuit is dismissed, the US House should refer his credentials to the Admin Committee prior to seating. If he doesn’t think he should be certified, the House should take note.”
Congressman Mike Kelly has asked a PA judge to block certification of his own election. Even after this lawsuit is dismissed, the US House should refer his credentials to the Admin Committee prior to seating. If he doesn't think he should be certified, the House should take note.
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) November 25, 2020
Read the ruling below:
[image via ABC screengrab]
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