Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Trump Campaign’s Claims of Close Range Ballot Watching

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The suit went through several courts in the system, being overturned by one court after another with opposing decisions. The Supreme Court has laid the claims of the Trump campaign to rest. It was held that the range that has been prescribed for by the Election Council is best to conduct observations. 

Background

The Trump campaign in its official capacity as Donald J. Trump, Inc. moved to the Philadelphia Court about the general elections. The allegation was that the Trump election observers were not allowed to observe the Philadelphia’s ballot-counting process. Attorney Mercer was one such observer who was overlooking the process from a safe and reasonable distance. He alleged that he could not see certain processes about the secrecy envelopes and if there were any markings on the envelopes. These allegations led to the challenging of the positions and the locations of the observers.

The Trump campaign filed a suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common pleas at 7.45 am on Election Day. They then proceeded to withdraw the same only to file again at 9.45 pm the same day. The trial court rejected the contentions. The matter was appealed to the Commonwealth Court which reversed the trial court’s decision. The appeal then was laid before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. 

Arguments

The Board in response to the allegations of not being allowed to observe provided the court with their entire mapping of what occurs indoors of a ballot counting convention centre. The convention centre also followed the guidelines about social distancing. According to the Election Code, designated observers for campaigns or candidates were permitted to enter the Convention Center hall and observe the entirety of this process. But, the Board erected a waist-high security fence to separate the observers from the above-described workspace of Board employees. They questioned the compliance of the authorities to the Election Code. The main argument of the campaign lawyers was that they were not allowed to do meaningful observations. The meaning observation argument was used in several instances and in several other suits which are being heard all over the country.

Observation

The main contention and issues that were raised were about section 3146 (b) of the Election Code. This allows the designated observers of a particular candidate to meaningfully observe the entire counting process. The words “Meaningful Observation”  was interpreted differently by the different courts which heard this suit. The trial court observed that the meaningful observation doesn’t involve the complete involvement of the observers and that there will be no change in the distance that has to be maintained between the observers and the board employees. After an appeal, the commonwealth court interpreted the meaningful observation as something which cannot happen at a distance more than 6 feet.

Court’s Decision

The Court, in a 5-2 ruling, held that the Trump election campaign observers are not entitled to observe the ballot counting in a range closer to what is prescribed in the code. 

https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/11/pennsylvania-supreme-court-rejects-trump-campaigns-ballot-watching-suit/ 


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