In the latest of several lawsuits against Pennsylvania election officials, Republicans say deputy elections secretary Jonathan Marks violated state code by notifying Democrat Party representatives of ballots that were rejected before the polls closed.
In a process called “curing” ballots, officials note which ballots are set to be rejected and reach out to the voter to allow him to cast a new provisional ballot. Election officials in Pennsylvania allegedly told Democrat operatives the names and contact information of voters whose ballots were rejected before the end of Election Day, which Republicans say violates state election laws.
Pennsylvania code mandates that “No person observing, attending or participating in a pre-canvass meeting may disclose the results of any portion of any pre-canvass meeting prior to the close of the polls.” Pre-canvassing is the process of opening and counting votes before reporting them.
The six Republicans who filed the lawsuit, including two candidates and four voters from three different counties, say Marks violated this portion of the election code by sending an email on Monday night to county election officials. In the email obtained by National Review, Marks said that “county boards of elections should provide information to party and candidate representatives during the pre-canvass that identifies the voters whose ballots have been rejected.”
Bucks County and Montgomery County both notified voters whose ballots needed alteration, as Marks’ email demanded. Montgomery County officials say they have set aside the altered ballots until the suit is resolved. The votes in question are from mail-in ballots, which have heavily favored Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Eight other Pennsylvania counties refused to follow Marks’ instructions since they violated election code, the lawsuit adds. It also quotes the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s acknowledgment that “unlike in-person voters, mail-in or absentee voters are not provided any opportunity to cure perceived [ballot] defects in a timely manner.” The court made the statement in its recent decision forbidding election officials from rejecting ballots based on the voter’s signature.
In another decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court forced election officials to accept mail-in ballots through the Friday after Election Day, even if there is no proof they were postmarked on time. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which split 4-4 on granting a stay in early October, before Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. But the court could still consider the issue anew in a post-Election Day decision.
Pennsylvania election officials were also telling the Biden campaign privately on Wednesday that they expected Biden to win by a margin of 100,000 to 200,000 votes.
Pennsylvania Democratic officials are privately telling Biden campaign officials that they believe final margin of victory for Biden in Pennsylvania will be 100K-200K votes when the counting is finally done
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) November 4, 2020
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign filed and won a lawsuit to make election officials allow Republican poll-watchers to observe the vote-counting. This lawsuit claimed that poll officials were “hiding ballot counting” by making Republicans stand too far away.
“Democracy dies in darkness,” said Corey Lewandowski, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, about Philadelphia officials’ apparent attempt to keep Republicans from watching the vote tally. “It’s time to go in and put some light on what’s happening.” A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge decided in favor of the Trump campaign’s claim, although the Philadelphia Board of Elections has appealed the decision.
In another lawsuit, the Trump campaign has sued the Pennsylvania secretary of state to shorten the deadline for voters with mail-in ballots to provide outstanding ID needed to validate their votes.
As of Thursday night, Trump led Biden by less than 27,000 votes, according to the Associated Press. That number dropped from around a 500,000-vote lead on Wednesday. An evidentiary hearing in the lawsuit over ballot “curing” will occur Friday morning.