(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump will seek “decertification” of Pennsylvania’s election result if the state affirms President-elect Joe Biden the winner as planned, while voting rights groups said Trump’s legal effort is based on an “incoherent conspiracy theory.”
In a filing Saturday in federal court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the campaign said the effort can succeed even if Biden’s victory is affirmed by Monday’s deadline, because the result can still be reversed by a judge before a Dec. 8 “safe harbor” deadline for electors to be chosen.
Trump seeks to block Pennsylvania elections chief Kathy Boockvar from certifying the result unless the state throws out tens of thousands of what it claims are “illegal” mail-in ballots. Those votes were cast, the Trump campaign contends, as part of a nationwide Democratic conspiracy linked to corrupt voting-machine software, Communist money, billionaire George Soros, and the late Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, an Obama appointee, is simultaneously weighing Boockvar’s motion to dismiss the suit and the Trump campaign’s amended request for an injunction to block certification.
“If the court were not to grant relief now, the case is not moot because it could revoke the certification and order Boockvar to certify Trump as the winner and require the allocation of Pennsylvania’s electors to Trump before Dec. 8,” the campaign said in its filing. “Under federal law, Pennsylvania’s legislature can effect this relief.”
States must choose electors by Dec. 8; the Electoral College vote is set for Dec. 14. After a string of court losses, Trump’s campaign is seeking alternate routes to victory based on what it contends is the ability of GOP-led state legislatures to override the popular vote and select electors on their own. It’s far from certain that Republican state lawmakers would go along with such a plan.
“Regardless of what defendants do, if this court orders that Trump be certified, Pennsylvania’s legislature can exercise their Article III authority to appoint electors up until Dec. in accord with the court’s findings and Bush v. Gore,” the campaign said.
On Friday evening, civil rights groups that intervened in the lawsuit urged the judge to deny the campaign’s request for an injunction and dismiss the case, arguing the claims are based on “absurd” logic contradicted by the facts in its own complaint.
The campaign seeks “to justify mass disenfranchisement with an incoherent conspiracy theory,” the groups, including the Pennsylvania chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of Women Voters, said in the filing.
“We did not establish a representative democracy to ask courts to ‘declare’ who wins our elections,” the groups said.
The campaign seeks to audit 1.5 million ballots in Democratic-leaning counties and subject them to a “statistical analysis” to determine how many may be “illegal,” who the ballots were cast for, and provide an estimate on many should be thrown out. The campaign claims that at least 70,000 ballots were probably counted illegally in Pennsylvania because voters were allowed to fix, or “cure,” minor errors in Democratic-leaning counties before Election Day, while some Republican-led counties rejected such ballots.
The voter groups said in their filing that election workers’ extensive documentation of voters who were allowed to “cure” errors contradicts the suit’s claim about a conspiracy.
And while the campaign claims that the counties’ curing process was intended “to favor Biden,” similar protocols were used in several counties where voters favored Trump by wide margins, according to the filing. Those Republican-leaning counties aren’t named in the suit.
Rejecting mail-in ballots from certified registered voters because they were given a chance to fix minor errors before Election Day would be a violation of the right to vote, they said. No evidence has been presented that ballots were cast by unregistered or invalid voters, they said.
“While plaintiffs’ allegations and claims continue to twist and turn, in search of a legal theory that could justify this lawsuit, their ultimate goal has remained the same: to disenfranchise” millions of voters “in an effort to overturn an unfavorable election result,” they said.
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