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County to take wait-and-see approach in response to Trump campaign lawsuit

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Warren County Solicitor Nathaniel Schmidt, left, updated the county commissioners, from left, Ben Kafferlin and Jeff Eggleston.

Warren County officials are confident in the security of election operations in spite of a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that named each county’s board of elections as defendants.

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

The named defendants include Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state and each of the 67 county election boards.

The heart of the allegations made in a federal district court filing center around Pennsylvania’s new mail-in voting option.

The Warren County Board of Elections — made up of the Warren County Commissioners — met in executive session prior to Wednesday’s meeting to discuss a response.

Solicitor Nathaniel Schmidt offered comments on the case during the public meeting.

The three major items the campaign is seeking court action on include a provision of the election code that permits poll watchers to watch at polling places outside of their county. The other two specifically pertain to mail-in ballot collecting and ballot counting.

“It’s very early in the case,” Schmidt noted, explaining they have no guidance on how the Pa. Department of State will respond, though he speculated that the poll watcher change is “something they may resist.

“I’ve advised the Board of Elections to take no position on it at this time (and) see how it plays out,” he added.

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.”

He said he discussed the case with other county solicitors.

“My expectation (is) that there will be a number of counties that take (a) non-confrontational approach to this element of the request.”

The law states — and the campaign wants enforced — that ballots can only be returned to the county election offices.

Warren County had one ballot box posted just inside the Fifth Ave. entrance to the courthouse.

“That was secured behind a locked door due to the COVID emergency,” Schmidt argued, and “monitored by the sheriff and security cameras” in addition to checked by county Elections Director Lisa Rivett. “This is similar based on some accounts I’ve heard to procedures that were implemented in other counties.

“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.”

He said the county will have to see “what the judge orders” moving forward but reiterated that the “Board of Elections has every intention to uphold the election code.”

Noting that no Warren County-specific issues are identified in the complaint, Schmidt said that “I don’t see this suit as significantly impacting the Board of Elections operations as they get prepared for the fall election.”

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