Remember ‘hanging chads’?

by | Nov 10, 2020 | Voting | 3 comments

It’s been one week since the general election and it’s definitely creating flashbacks to the year 2000 and the challenges that followed the Bush/Gore presidential contest. At that time, it was Florida in the limelight, as the results there were contested by former Vice President Al Gore. It took 37 days and a US Supreme Court decision to determine the outcome. 

Now, in 2020, signs are it may very well take at least that many days to determine the outcome – not just in one state, like Florida in 2000 — but  in several states, including Pennsylvania. 

On Saturday, a number of news outlets projected victory for former Vice President Joe Biden, and since then he has taken on the role of President-Elect. But there are several states, including Pennsylvania, that have not yet finished counting mail-in ballots or where controversy about the process has arisen. Indeed, lawsuits have been filed in several states by the Trump campaign or its surrogates challenging the vote. 

With the growing number of confusing news reports – including efforts by Twitter and Facebook to silence or filter information –  it can be difficult to know what is true and what is ”fake news.” Here’s a look at what we can tell you so far from our vantage point:

Election Results Status:

  • Pennsylvania counties have not finished counting all of the mail-in ballots (52,998 left) or the provisional ballots. To put that into perspective, right now Joe Biden is reported ahead of Donald Trump in PA by less than 50,000 votes.
  • There have been several irregularities and possible violations of election law in how this election and counting process have been conducted in Pennsylvania.
    • The State Supreme Court ruled shortly before the election that signatures on mail-in ballots did not need to match the signature on file for that voter.
    • Some county election officials were contacting voters, or giving voter information to political parties to contact voters, to correct their mail-in ballots that had been rejected, which is against state election law as well as extremely unfair since voters in other counties had no such opportunity. 
    • Some counties were counting mail-in ballots that came in after 8 p.m. on Election Day, in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court order requiring that they segregate those ballots until a final ruling could be made. 
    • Republican poll watchers in Allegheny, Philadelphia, and some other counties were barred from overseeing the counting of ballots as required by election law.

Legislative efforts:

  • Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) is calling on Governor Wolf to launch a full audit of the election before the results are certified. This may come up for a vote when the House returns to session starting Monday, November 16. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-State College) has promised to support this election audit.
  • Senate Majority Leader Corman is calling on the PA Secretary of State to resign over her “constantly changing guidance [that] has resulted in inconsistent handling of ballots across the counties.” 
  • Pennsylvania Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives – John Joyce, Mike Kelly, Dan Meuser, Scott Perry, Lloyd Smucker, and Glenn GT Thompson – sent a letter to Gov. Wolf and Secretary Boockvar to follow the law. The letter also asks Attorney General Josh Shapiro to recuse himself from any involvement due to a pre-election tweet declaring that, “If all the votes are added up in PA, Trump is going to lose,” and also because he is one of the candidates.
  • A group of state senators and representatives announced today that they are calling for investigatory hearings and a bipartisan legislative-led audit of the election results before they are certified. 
  • The House State Government Committee announced that they will launch an investigation into the 2020 election.

Litigation:

  • The Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Trump v. Boockvar, seeking to throw out invalid ballots and ballots counted without transparency due to the violations of election law in Allegheny County, Centre County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Northampton County, and Philadelphia County. This case will be expedited and we will be watching it closely. This lawsuit has the potential to invalidate 300,000+ ballots due to election law violations. Currently, Biden and Trump are only separated by 45,321 votes.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito – again – issued an order segregating ballots that came in after 8 p.m. on Election Day because some counties were not following the first order. The case regarding these ballots is being referred to the full U.S. Supreme Court. We will keep you posted.
  • The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal brought by the Trump campaign regarding Philadelphia County election officials refusing access to the Republican poll watchers as ballots were being counted.

The results of the election are still very much undecided here in Pennsylvania, and it’s hard to say how various courts will rule. Stay tuned.