Republicans launched a long-hyped wave of legal challenges to a presidential contest that looked increasingly favorable to Joe Biden on Wednesday. Naturally, Rudy Giuliani was involved.
Before Wisconsin was even called for the Democratic challenger, the Trump campaign vowed to push for a recount in the state. The president's re-election bid also went ahead and announced it had filed a suit in Michigan over access to the counting of ballots that seemed to be tipping the state Biden’s way.
And in Georgia, where votes were still being counted Wednesday, the Trump campaign launched a legal attack challenging late-arriving postal votes.
The suit in Georgia hinges on the testimony of a single Republican poll watcher, Sean Pumphrey—chairman of the South Carolina Young Republicans and a former candidate for state legislature in the Palmetto State—and an incident he reported witnessing at the Chatham County Board of Elections in Savannah, according to court documents. Pumphrey claims that he discovered a stack of 53 ballots he did not believe to have been properly processed, and may have arrived after the 7 p.m. deadline, that had been mixed into the larger pool. The president's attorneys hope to compel the local authority to provide a full accounting of all late-arriving postal votes.
In Pennsylvania earlier on Wednesday, an early batch of technical suits over relatively obscure ballot issues was followed by a Giuliani tweet teasing more mayhem from the Hunter Biden-obsessed mudslinger, a premature declaration of victory in the state, and a petition to the Supreme Court.
“Will not let Philly Democrat hacks steal it!” the former mayor of New York City and lawyer to President Trump tweeted Wednesday.
It's unclear what exactly Giuliani was talking about, but he planned a press conference with Trump family members and supporters in the City of Brotherly Love at 3:30 p.m. That press conference did not start on time, and wound up being held at a local airport, where the mayor claimed the count in the heavily Democratic, majority-nonwhite town was “completely illegitimate.”
The Trump campaign also jumped into a state Republican Party lawsuit against Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, attempting to re-litigate a recent Supreme Court decision that permitted the state to continue receiving postal ballots through Friday.
“Pennsylvania’s unhinged, radical left Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has tried her hardest to bake in a backdoor to victory for Joe Biden with late, illegal ballots in collusion with the partisan state supreme court,” a statement from the campaign read.
Another lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania on Wednesday seeks to block Boockvar's push to extend the deadline for mail-in voters to correct errors in their identification information to Monday.
The Trump campaign further accused the state of failing to grant its observers access to the polls, echoing the suit in Michigan.
That Wolverine State complaint alleges that the state denied observers their legal right to monitor absentee vote counts, or to view video footage of “remote and unattended drop boxes.” The attorneys requested an emergency halt to the tallying of postal ballots and the separation of those collected at the locations in dispute.
Spearheading the suit was Mark “Thor” Hearne, a veteran of former President George W. Bush's campaigns and co-founder of the defunct conservative nonprofit American Center for Voting Rights. His clients include not just the president but Michigan businessman and politico Eric Ostergren, who was attached to a recent lawsuit against the state's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
These plays join two other lawsuits Republicans launched Tuesday night, looking to block counties from permitting voters whose absentee votes were rejected for technical reasons to “cure” their errors.
A source at the Pennsylvania State Attorney General's office, which serves as part of Boockvar's legal team, indicated they believed the law largely leaves the handling of challenged ballots up to localities.
Another suit, scheduled to come before a federal judge in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, deals with a relatively small number of ballots in adjoining Montgomery County, a large and Democratic-leaning suburb.
Citing internal communications from and among county officials, the complaint asserts that officials violated state law that only allowed the processing of mail-in ballots to begin at 7 a.m. on Election Day by ascertaining which ballots were “naked”—lacking the secrecy envelope—and thus could not be legally counted. The suit contends these officials further violated state law and Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent by contacting voters and giving them a chance to fix their ballots.
This suit drew the attention of the Democratic National Committee, which filed to intervene in the matter early Wednesday morning, potentially escalating the stakes. The party organization asserted that its efforts to promote remote voting, and its support for candidates potentially impacted by the suit, gave it standing in the matter.
“The DNC has dedicated significant institutional resources to encourage its supporters and constituents to vote by mail, resources that could have been directed to other states or to encouraging in-person voting in Pennsylvania had the DNC been aware of the potential for lawfully cast ballots to be declared spoiled, as Plaintiffs request,” reads the brief attorneys with the firms Perkins Coie and Ballard Spahr filed.
“Montgomery County’s ballot intake procedure complies with both the Pennsylvania Election Code and the practices of county election boards across the Commonwealth.”
State GOP counsel Thomas King told The Daily Beast he expected the Republican National Committee to soon get involved as well. The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment..
“It’s absolutely illegal in Pennsylvania to divulge that information,” King argued in an interview with The Daily Beast. "There is no opportunity for a second vote under the law in Pennsylvania.”
Boockvar, a Democrat, defended her guidance in a press conference Tuesday night.
“We don’t think we broke the law,” public radio station WHYY quoted her saying. “There’s absolutely nothing in Pennsylvania law that prohibits that practice.”
“We believe our process is sound and permissible under the election code,” said Kelly Cofrancisco, a county spokeswoman, told the Bucks County Courier-Times.
King said that parties to this case would have a teleconference with a judge Wednesday afternoon.
Because not all counties followed the same policy on vote-counting, that GOP suit explicitly compared the inconsistency to the differing procedures in Florida that led the U.S. Supreme Court siding with then-candidate George W. Bush in 2000, effectively awarding him the presidency.
“It’s clearly ripe for a challenge,” Professor Daniel Mallinson, a politics and elections expert at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, told The Daily Beast.
Mallinson is one of a number of Keystone State observers who previously predicted that the millions of mail-in ballots sent and returned to its major metropolitan areas could take days to tabulate, creating increasing risks of political friction.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that “naked ballots” without the secrecy envelope could not count toward the state’s totals. A disproportionate number of Democrats have sought to vote absentee, and the question of “curing” ballots could shift the margin if the outcome in the state is extremely tight.