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Trump campaign sues to block Pennsylvania election result

A Luzerne County worker canvases ballots that arrived after closing of voting until Friday at 5 p.m. and postmarked by Nov. 3rd as vote counting in the general election continues, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

By MARK SCOLFORO and MARC LEVY Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s campaign launched a lawsuit to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania, suing Monday as counties continued to sort through provisional ballots and mail-in ballots nearly a week after the election in the battleground state.

The Associated Press on Saturday called the presidential contest for former Vice President Joe Biden, after determining that the remaining ballots left to be counted in Pennsylvania would not allow Trump to catch up.

But Trump’s campaign filed litigation in federal court over Pennsylvania’s presidential election, saying registered Democratic voters were treated more favorably than Republican voters. Trump has refused to concede.

“The election is not over,” the Trump campaign’s general counsel, Matthew Morgan, said in a news conference in Washington, D.C.

The 85-page lawsuit itself contained no evidence of voter fraud, other than a smattering of allegations, such as an election worker in Chester County altering “over-voted” ballots by changing votes that had been marked for Trump to another candidate.

A spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Trump’s campaign was trying to “disenfranchise the record number of people who voted against him” while Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the Trump campaign’s latest lawsuit meritless.

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the state, Philadelphia and six counties from certifying the results of the election. It also seeks to block them from counting mail-in ballots that weren’t witnessed by a Trump campaign representative when they were processed or counting ballots cast by voters who were given an opportunity to fix mail-in ballots that were going to be disqualified for a technicality.

It accuses Allegheny County and Philadelphia — where Trump was badly beaten in unofficial election returns — of receiving and processing 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots without review by political parties and candidates.

The office of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday that ballot watchers from all parties have observers throughout the process and that “any insinuation otherwise is a lie.”

An Allegheny County spokesperson declined comment, saying officials were reviewing the lawsuit. Philadelphia city officials said there is no evidence to support Trump campaign allegations and that the city has fully complied with the law.

The lawsuit also charges that “Democratic-heavy counties” violated the law by identifying mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects — such as lacking an inner “secrecy envelope” or lacking a voter’s signature on the outside envelope — so that the voter could fix it and ensure that their vote would count.

A similar claim by Republicans was dismissed in a state court Friday. Democratic voters submitted almost three times as many ballots by mail as Republicans.

Morgan called the new lawsuit “step one of a process.”

“We are very close to the automatic recount statute in Pennsylvania and this lawsuit itself could change that or swing that small discrepancy,” Morgan said.

Wolf has accused Republicans of seeking to undermine confidence in the election results.

“Pennsylvania is going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters,” his office said in a statement Monday. “We will protect this election and the democratic process. Pennsylvania will count every vote, and we will protect the count of every vote.”

Courts have thus far rejected Republican demands in Pennsylvania and other battleground states to throw out ballots or stop vote counting.

All told, counties in Pennsylvania have tallied more than 6.7 million ballots, or about 74% turnout.

On Monday, Biden’s lead in the state stood at about 45,000 votes, fueled by big wins in Philadelphia, Allegheny County and Philadelphia’s four heavily populated suburban counties. That is larger than the 44,292-vote margin of Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania in 2016.

More than 2.6 million mail-in ballots were reported received by counties, and there has been no report by state or county election officials of fraud or any other problem with the accuracy of the count.

Republicans in the state Legislature and congressional delegation have echoed complaints about how the state managed the election, calling for the resignation of Wolf’s top elections official and an audit of the election.

On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Pennsylvania prevented us from watching much of the Ballot count. Unthinkable and illegal in this country.”

However, Republican lawyers acknowledged in court last week that they had certified observers watching mail-in ballots being processed in Philadelphia.

Some of the pending litigation filed by Republicans challenges a state court order to count mail-in ballots that arrived in a three-day period after polls closed. Ballots cannot be counted if there is proof they were mailed after polls closed.

On Monday, 10 Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to support a challenge to the state court order.

Pennsylvania election officials have not yet provided a statewide tally of the total of late-arriving ballots. Still, based on estimates from a number of counties, the total may not exceed 10,000.

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter. Follow Mark Scolforo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/houseofbuddy.