Republicans intend to file a federal lawsuit by the end of the week challenging a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that extends ballot collection by a full three days after Election Day, according to a Republican state senator.
“We’re going to lead a lawsuit. It’s very rare for the Senate Republicans to do that, it will be announced in a day or so, to take it to federal court,” State Senator Doug Mastriano (R–Adams) told Dom Giordano’s radio show Monday morning.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said ballots postmarked by the time polls close in Pennsylvania on Nov. 3 and received by county election boards by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6 must be counted.
The court went even further, however, saying that ballots “received within this period that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”
The results were widely hailed as a victory for Democrats — and Joe Biden, in particular. “Three rulings from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on voting are being seen as giving a boost to the prospects of Joe Biden over President Trump in that state,” NBC News wrote.
Mastriano suggested that the lawsuit’s main argument will claim the Supreme Court acted in a legislative fashion when extending the voting deadline, saying “the court can interpret the law, they can’t create law.”
With Election Day only 43 days away, Mastriano is concerned about running out of time.
“The Democrats are very strategic, they wait ‘til it’s late in the game like they did two years ago with congressional redistricting, remember that?” Mastriano said. “They did that in October too, and it just jacked up everything.
“I don’t think we fought hard enough then. We should be relentless because that [previous ruling] set a precedent where the Supreme Court feels like they can do the legislator’s work, and they’re outside the Constitution right now.”
While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling was hailed as a boost for Biden by some media outlets, others panned the decision.
“If the polls are right that Biden supporters are much more likely to vote by mail, the new leeway on absentees could redound to his benefit,” the conservative-leaning Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote. “If ballots are disputed, lawsuits will send vote counting into the courts. Any doubt which candidate the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will favor?”
The worry has become pervasive, even nationally, that the election might come down to Pennsylvania, and the state might not know the presidential winner until days later.
All parties seem to agree that counties must be given the legal power to begin counting mail-in ballots earlier, something that slowed down the June primary.
Legislation to fix that issue, however, has stalled on disagreement over smaller details, like the use of satellite drop boxes, which Republicans do not want used. The bill already passed by the House gives counties the ability to start counting votes already in-hand three days before Election Day, but Gov. Wolf wants a longer window.
“Last year’s election reform bill that was passed had a lot of problems, so we’re trying to tighten that up as well,” Mastriano said about the House bill the Senate will consider this week. “The only problem is the governor has the initiative, he’s going to veto it, and I doubt enough Democrats will break ranks and join with the people — because they’re a party of the party — and it’ll get vetoed by him and then it will die. So yes, we’re trying to pass a piece of legislation that will tighten it up from a legislative perspective.”