As reported earlier today by my RedState colleague Nick Arama, a state court judge in Pennsylvania ruled earlier today that Secretary of the Commonwealth Katherine Boockvar exceeded her authority when she issued “guidance” to County Boards of Elections to extend by three days the six-day period provided in Pennsylvania election law during which a voter could “cure” a defective ballot where the issue was a failure to provide identification at the polling place.
There are numerous lawsuits that have been filed in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania. Some challenge the vote outcome, while others challenge specific aspects of the voting procedures allowed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth that are alleged to have been in violation of Pennsylvania law.
Many of the latter problems go back to the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend by three days the period within which “mailed-in” ballots could be received and counted as if timely cast. The Pennsylvania election statute says ballots must be in the possession of election officials no later than 8:00 pm on election day, but the Supreme Court extended that deadline to 5:00 pm on Nov. 6. Whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could lawfully do such a thing is the subject of a Petition now pending before the United States Supreme Court to invalidate that extension and not allow ballots received after 8:00 pm on election day to be counted.
Today’s decision is unrelated to that question — except to the extent that Boockvar justified the three-day extension she granted on the “curing” period based on the State Supreme Court’s three-day extension to the ballot receipt deadline.
This decision today involves provisional ballots cast by voters who could not provide a necessary form of identification at the polling place. Pennsylvania law requires that a voter appearing for the first time in a new election district must provide proof of identification. The requirement does not extend to voters who have voted in the district previously. So it is likely that you have a higher number of young voters who participated in an election for the first time included in this group of provisional ballots.
The Trump campaign had previously gone to the Court and asked that any ballot which was “cured” of an identification defect after the six-day period set by statute — after November 9, 2020 — be set aside and segregated in the vote count. On November 5, 2020, the state court judge granted that motion.
In today’s decision on the merits the state court judge ruled that Boockvar lacked any lawful authority to alter the provisions of the Pennsylvania Election code by making the deadline to cure identification defects anything other than November 9. On that basis he ordered that County Boards of Election not count ballots “cured” of such a defect after November 9.
It is not known at this point how many ballots might be involved state-wide, or whether those ballots might favor Pres. Trump or Joe Biden.
But it is an incontrovertible fact that Democrat party interest groups are the biggest opponent to voter ID laws, so it stands to reason that where the validity of a vote is called into question by lack of an acceptable form of identification, the numbers probably slant towards Democrat voters being disproportionately involved.
More significantly — as it might extend to other cases pending — this decision cuts the legs out from under claims that Boockvar had any authority via “Guidance” to direct County Boards of Elections to act in any fashion contrary to the explicit provisions of the State’s Election Law. This is a huge issue in the federal court suit filed this past Monday which alleges that the seven named County Boards of Elections were given guidance by Boockvar’s office that they could evade certain aspects of state law with regard to “pre-canvassing” of ballots.
Remember this controversy:
In a newsletter earlier this month, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) reiterated its support for giving counties more time for pre-canvassing. “Without the ability to pre-canvass prior to election day, it may take days or even weeks until final election results are known,” CCAP told its members.
On Friday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar urged the Legislature to act, saying that Pennsylvania is only one of four that only allow pre-canvassing to start on Election Day.
With that in mind — from 10 days prior to the election — consider this story today from Margot Cleveland at The Federalist.
The Biden campaign was working with Boockvar’s office to get the authority to identify possible defective mail-in ballots prior to election day so the campaign could contact those voters to make sure they voted a provisional ballot just in case their mail-in ballot was rejected. The way they would learn the identities of Biden voters with defective ballots was going to be in this earlier than allowed pre-canvassing process — where ballot envelopes are opened, the ballot removed, the ballot is examined for defects, and the votes are recorded.
The federal court lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign alleges that County Boards of Elections directed election workers to “pre-canvass” ballot envelopes prior to the time authorized by law in the Pennsylvania statute. If that is proven to be true in the factual record of that case, and if any “cured” ballots pre-canvassed in violation of law cannot be segregated from the vote count, the validity of the vote count is destroyed.
The state court decision today establishes the hubris of Boockvar’s office — the view that they could alter the provisions of the election code in ways they deemed would make them fairer.
We’ll soon see what price they end up paying for having done so.