Pennsylvania Republicans Sue Alleging Early Vote Counting
(Bloomberg) -- Pennsylvania Republicans sued officials in a suburban county near Philadelphia that is expected to heavily favor Democrats, alleging they illegally allowed mail-in ballots to be counted before Election Day.
The suit targeting Montgomery County officials was filed in federal court in Philadelphia on Tuesday by a Republican candidate for Congress and chairman of the Republican Party in neighboring Berks County. Late on Tuesday, a county spokeswoman said only 49 ballots were involved.
In Pennsylvania, vote tabulation is prohibited until 7 a.m. on Election Day.
Republicans also allege Montgomery County officials are allowing some voters with defects in their ballots to correct them. They are asking a federal judge to stop the county from contacting any voter whose ballot is defective and order that any defective or revised ballots be set aside. According to the suit, the county’s Board of Elections had identified at least 1,200 ballots that were defective as of Oct. 31.
The county believes that its process is “sound and permissible under the Election Code,” Kelly Cofrancisco, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County, said in a statement. She said a hearing in the matter was scheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
Montgomery County and other Philadelphia suburbs are expected to favor Democrat Joe Biden. In 2016, nearly 60% of Montgomery County voters went for Hillary Clinton.
The suit comes after President Donald Trump pledged a fierce legal fight over vote counting that would drag on after polls close. The battle so far has focused mostly on curtailing Democratic efforts to loosen rules for voting by mail.
Local Democrats have said staff at polling places have always helped voters ensure they are casting ballots correctly and that county officials weren’t overstepping while contacting voters, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Some issues with ballots, such as whether a voter forgot to sign the envelope, are evident before they are opened, the Inquirer said.
The Republican lawsuit further claims that Montgomery County officials are restricting their ability to monitor the count by forcing their representatives into a “tiny holding pen” that doesn’t allow them to adequately view the proceedings or in a overflow room with televisions.
The case is Barnette v Lawrence, 20-cv-5477, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
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