Pa. Democrats counter Trump campaign in court

Mail-in voting rules are focus of parties' lawsuits

  • Emily Previti
Join our partners at WITF on Thurs. night at 7 p.m. for the third in a series of virtual conversations about systemic racism and injustice. More sessions are planned this summer, each featuring community leaders and focused on specific manifestations of institutional racism. This Thursday’s discussion will explore racial inequality in education. Sign up to attend the free event here. —Emily Previti, staff writer

Courtesy state Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny)

Democratic legislators announce a lawsuit aimed at blocking efforts by the Trump campaign to impose tighter rules on vote-by-mail and loosen restrictions on the eligibility of poll watchers.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party and more than a dozen Democratic state legislators filed a lawsuit in state court yesterday seeking to move the ballot return deadline to a week after the general election for any ballot postmarked by Election Day. It also seeks an order that would essentially counter claims made in the federal lawsuit filed two weeks ago by President Trump’s reelection campaign that seeks to tighten rules on how and where counties can collect ballots, and loosen residency rules for poll watchers.

“What we see here is nothing more than voter suppression. It is akin to the poll tax that African Americans had to go through. It is akin to the literacy test that African Americans had to go through,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), referring specifically to the GOP lawsuit. “We don’t have to mince words. … This is modern day voter suppression.”

Read my story about the Democrats’ lawsuit. The Philadelphia Inquirer also covered the filing.

As for Trump’s lawsuit, the president’s campaign is seeking to fast-track its case against Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and county election officials, who had until Monday to respond to the request for expedited consideration by U.S District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan. Boockvar and her attorneys essentially said they agree Judge Ranjan should address the matter ASAP. But the first thing to consider is whether the case and/or Boockvar and counties’ arguments for dismissing it even have merit (Trump’s lawyers are hoping to go straight to expedited discovery, etc.).

Boockvar and her lawyers note that state legislators are expected to review the state’s election code after the DoS files a report on how well counties managed the June 2 primary.

“[The report] will have the added benefit of addressing a number of plaintiffs’ discovery requests,” they wrote.

A handful of counties — including YorkCrawfordPotterHuntingdon and Lancaster — filed responses as well.

Their arguments against fast-tracking the case include not having enough time to properly respond to discovery requests.

The counties also claim that the Trump campaign doesn’t have standing, nor do the two Pa. voters named as plaintiffs, because they don’t detail specific allegations of harm. The counties also note that the complaint doesn’t name any voters from 62 of the 67 counties with an election board listed as a defendant.

We’ll continue to follow these Pa. election cases and several others pending in state and federal court.

Stay tuned.

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Susan Phillps / WHYY

Naijae Spencer, 14, a resident of the homeless encampment on the Ben Franklin Parkway, carries a sign during a demonstration against the city’s plan to clear the encampment by Friday.

  • About 150 people experiencing homelessness have been camping on what’s typically used as a ball field abutting Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. At its peak, more than 200 tents had been pitched along with hand-washing stations, a kitchen and a shower. Now, they say they’ll stay put and resist city orders to clear out by Friday in protest of the city’s treatment of poor and Black residents, Susan Phillips reports for WHYY.

  • Pennsylvania created the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program more than four decades ago to try to encourage investment in blighted properties. PA Post’s Ben Pontz found that some cities have started to track some quantitative measures of outcomes in the absence of discernible statewide data. For his latest story, Ben talked to Altoona Mayor Matt Pacifico on what the numbers show there and implications for a proposal that would broaden LERTA for communities across the commonwealth.

  • Penn State grad students say they’re holding a “die-in” next Monday to protest returning to in-person classroom instruction this fall. University officials wouldn’t specify circumstances that would push all classes fully back online when WPSU’s Anne Danahy asked about it. They say “faculty able to teach in-person are expected to do so” unless the class has more than 250 students, Anne reports.

  • Pennsylvania joined 17 other states in filing a lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s rule on international college students. That rule would require students attending U.S. schools to leave the country if the schools move forward with plans for online-only instruction. Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro “said he joined the coalition challenging the new order in response to concern from affected schools across the commonwealth, including the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Plenty of universities and colleges are signing onto similar suits, including Mercyhurst in Erie and Penn State.

  • Tensions are high in Allentown over a video showing a police officer kneeling on a man’s neck during a Saturday arrest. About 200 protesters marched on Monday evening, demanding the name of the officer shown in the video and the officer’s arrest, Lehigh Valley Live reported. According to The Morning Call, “The Allentown Police Department is conducting an internal investigation into the use of force. The Lehigh County district attorney’s office also assigned two county detectives to investigate the incident and will release a statement this week when the review of that investigation is complete.”

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