The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt another blow to the Trump campaign late Tuesday when it reversed a lower state court’s order allowing election observers within six feet of ballot operations.
In the 5-2 majority opinion, the high court said that state law only says that observers be allowed “in the room” where ballots are being counted and examined and does not require a minimum distance, reports said.
In addition, the court ruled that the Philadelphia Board of Elections “did not act in contrary to the law in fashioning its regulations governing the positioning of candidate representatives,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“Critically, we find the board’s regulations…were reasonable,” wrote Justice Debra Todd.
The high court’s ruling countermands a Nov. 5 order from Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon agreed with the Trump campaign and ordered a reduction in the 25-foot distance from which “candidates, watchers or candidate representatives” could observe votes being tallied.
“We plan on entering that building right now and legally observing the voting process. If there is one illegal vote that is cast, it takes away from the great men and women of Pennsylvania who came out to vote legally,” former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaking on behalf of the Trump campaign, told reporters after the ruling.
However, polling officials refused to honor the terms of the order, Bondi told reporters less than an hour later.
“What’s happening is, they have moved the barriers up to six feet but they took away the ballot machines that were in the front row and moved them to the back of the building,” Bondi said.
“It’s unbelievable what they’re trying to do to our votes that have been legally cast, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Those legal votes must be tabulated. They’re not doing that…they’re trying to drown us out now where we can’t be heard,” she added, a reference to an ongoing protest near the vote-count center in Philadelphia.
“We are not going to stand for this. We are not going anywhere. They are defying a court order by a judge and this is not the last of this,” she added.
Two days later, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered Pennsylvania election officials to segregate ballots that arrived after 8 p.m. on Election Day, pending the decision in a case that remains before the high court.
This is how poll observation was “allowed” in Philly until court order came through yest mandating 6 ft distance (went in effect from 10:30am Thurs but unclear when actually happened given the argument over enforcement that ensued). So for day & half give or take- zero oversight. pic.twitter.com/Aq6EzPrqcm
— Matthew Tyrmand (@MatthewTyrmand) November 6, 2020
That case seeks to determine whether Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar acted improperly when she extended by ballot deadlines by three days after Election Day, and the state Supreme Court okayed the extension. Under the U.S. Constitution, state legislatures set voting and ballot rules.
“This segregating/securing was already supposed to be happening,” Fox News’ Shannon Bream noted on Twitter. “PA GOP told SCOTUS today that neither it nor the PA Secretary of Commonwealth could get all the county boards of election to confirm they were actually complying. Now there’s a SCOTUS Order.”
In his order, however, Alito did not address Pennsylvania state Republicans’ request to strike down the three-day extension as unconstitutional.
“I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election,” Alito wrote.
“Although the court denies the motion to expedite” the petition seeking review, he continued, it “remains before us, and if it is granted, the case can then be decided under a shortened schedule.”