President Donald Trump has received another major blow after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court dismissed a complaint his campaign team filed that observers weren’t allowed close enough to observe the electoral count in the state.
The 5-2 decision ruled that Pennsylvania counties could determine the particulars of election observers, and that state law only required they be ‘in the room’ when votes are counted.
The court ruled that the elections board in Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, acted reasonably in keeping Trump campaign observers behind barricades and 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from counting tables, rejecting an appeal from Trump’s campaign.
The court found that restrictions that Philadelphia election officials put in place ‘were reasonable in that they allowed candidate representatives to observe the Board conducting its activities as prescribed under the Election Code.’
Among the evidence cited were claims made in the campaign’s own witness statements, including by a lawyer who served as an observer and shared observations from inside a vote canvassing facility.
The court’s opinion, which reversed a lower court ruling which was the Trump camp’s only significant victory, noted that the campaign’s ‘own witness’ provided testimony which contradicted the claim.
It said the restrictions ‘did not deprive’ the observer of the ability to observe what went on with the canvassing process in a meaningful way.
The legal setback snatched away the Trump camp’s lone win after filing a series of state lawsuits challenging actions by county election officials in states that went to Democrat Joe Biden.
The ruling is expected to hobble another case filed by the Trump campaign in a Federal court, where Rudy Giuliani appeared for Trump.
In the Federal court in Williamsport, Trump lawyer Giuliani alleged a nationwide conspiracy of widespread voter fraud, before District Judge Matthew Brann.
Giuliani, rumoured to be paid $20,000 a day for leading Trump’s legal charge, argued that the president was the victim of a nationwide conspiracy.
‘You’d have to be a fool to think this was an accident,’ Giuliani said in federal district court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
‘It’s a widespread nationwide voter fraud of which this is a part.’ Trump and his lawyers have yet to provide evidence of such a nationwide conspiracy – although they have increasingly pointed to voting machines that the president claims ‘deleted’ votes from him and ‘switched’ them to Joe Biden.
Giuliani did not raise complaints about voting machines in court, instead claiming Democratic-controlled counties didn’t allow Republicans to see ‘a single absentee ballot’ during counting.
‘I used to vote by absentee ballot a lot, because I traveled a lot,’ Giuliani acknowledged during his argument.
A loss in the case would likely doom Trump’s already-remote prospects of altering the election’s outcome.
Mark Aronchick, a lawyer representing several Pennsylvania counties, sounded exasperated with Giuliani’s claims and said that the former New York mayor was “living in a fantasy world.”
“Dismiss this case so we can move on to the real business of this country,” Aronchick told Brann. “Let’s end this.”
The case initially included claims that Republican observers were denied access to ballot-counting. But Trump’s campaign on Sunday narrowed it to focus on a claim that some voters were improperly allowed to fix ballots that had been rejected due to technical errors such as missing an inner “secrecy envelope.”
During the hearing, Giuliani, a former senior federal prosecutor who has not been a courtroom regular for decades, made sweeping claims despite the campaign’s earlier narrowing of the case.
Giuliani said election officials in the state only let “their little mafia” look at the ballots, but provided no evidence to back up that claim.
Trump, the first U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since 1992, has called the election “rigged” and has falsely claimed victory.
State election officials around the country have said they have found no evidence of the widespread fraud that Trump claims.
Daniel Donovan, a lawyer for Pennsylvania’s top election official, called the state’s handling of the election during the coronavirus pandemic a success.
Donovan argued that Trump’s campaign was asking a federal court to “micromanage” routine differences in county practices.
Pennsylvania officials have said a small number of ballots were allowed to be fixed.
Trump’s campaign, however, asked Brann to halt certification of Biden’s victory in the state.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is due to certify the election results next Monday, meaning Brann is expected to rule quickly.
Biden, due to take office on Jan. 20, is projected to have won Pennsylvania by more than 70,000 votes, giving him 49.9% of the state’s votes to 48.8% for Trump.
Trump’s campaign said Democratic-leaning counties unlawfully identified mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects so that voters could fix, or “cure,” them.
Pennsylvania officials said all of the state’s counties were permitted to inform residents if their mail-in ballots were deficient, even if it was not mandatory for them to do so. The pandemic led to a surge in mail-in voting.
Biden clinched the U.S. election by winning Pennsylvania to put him over the 270 state-by-state electoral votes needed. Biden, a Democrat, won 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232.