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Counties respond to Trump suit

The first wave of responses are in on the lawsuit from the Trump campaign that challenges mail-in voting processes in Pennsylvania.

Monday marked the deadline for responses on a motion by the campaign to accelerate the case.

Named defendants include the state secretary of state and each county’s Board of Elections.

Congressman Glenn Thompson joined Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., as did a couple other members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation and two potential poll watchers as plaintiffs.

Several specific court actions are requested — an order that prohibits the return of absentee or mail-in ballots anywhere but the county elections office, an order to prohibit counting mail-in ballots that don’t have the secrecy envelope as the legislation requires and an order to permit poll watchers to be present wherever the ballots are returned regardless of county of residence.

The Warren County Board of Elections — made up of the Warren County Commissioners — met last week in executive session to discuss a response but appear to not have filed a formal response in the case.

“I’ve advised the Board of Elections to take no position on it at this time (and) see how it plays out,” Solicitor Nathanial Schmidt said last week.

On the other two items, Schmidt said “having consulted with the Board of Elections, we are in agreement preliminarily that the requests being made here are essentially compliance with the law as it stands.

“While I think the Trump campaign is looking to enforce the strict letter of the law… given the circumstances of the COVID emergency, I think Warren County took significant precautions to ensure the integrity of our election.”

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a filing that even amid the pandemic, the state “has continued to assure its citizens the right to exercise that right to vote in free and fair primary elections.”

That filing suggests that a request for a speedy hearing is “premature” as the “General Election is still almost four months away.”

However, the state said that they and the county Boards of Elections “have a vested interest in conducting a free, fair, and orderly General Election in November and in maintaining public confidence in the Commonwealth’s election procedures, and therefore share in the desire to efficiently resolve Plaintiffs’ claims.”

Many of the county responses include very similar language.

A filing from 11 counties notes that an Aug. 1, 2020 date for a report to the legislature on mail-in voting in the most recent elections would make discovery in the case “duplicative.”

A filing from Crawford County indicates their belief “that it is critical that the Court bring this matter to a final resolution sufficiently in advance of the November 3, 2020 election so that Crawford County is able to ensure a fair and free process. Nonetheless, the specific relief sought in Plaintiffs’ Motion is untenable.”

They argue that the plaintiffs “seek to regulate each county’s elections regardless of whether they are strictly local or statewide.”

York County questioned whether the plaintiffs, which include, among others, Congressman Glenn Thompson, have standing in York.

“Other counties’ policies do not apply to Plaintiffs who do not reside or vote there; rather, it is the Plaintiff’s home county that applies a similar policy inconsistently and the state which accepts and certifies of the statewide elections that allegedly dilutes Plaintiff’s vote…. Here, Plaintiffs seek to require the state and 67 different county boards of elections to produce records generally regarding claims of voter fraud. Individual Plaintiffs make no specific allegations that the counties in which they are electors (Blair, Washington, Butler, Fayette, or Center) violated the Election Code or diluted the power of their votes.”

No such claims are made in the affidavit regarding Warren County, either.

“Despite its length, the Complaint is marked by a complete lack of specificity in terms of allegations against individual counties and their boards of elections, including Washington County and its Board of Elections,” Washington County asserted in response. “In the place of specific allegations, the Complaint consists of countless citations to state and federal case law, state and federal statutes, and the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions. The Complaint is also replete with unsubstantiated accounts of election irregularities that purportedly plagued Pennsylvania’s June 2, 2020 Primary Election — none of which apparently relate to Washington County.”

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