A flurry of lawsuits from the Trump campaign cropped up yesterday, almost all of which have to do with the counting process taking place for mail-in ballots that are arriving at the eleventh hour. One of the suits filed in Pennsylvania, however, seems problematic from a couple of angles. It deals with a last-minute change to the voting laws made by Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar. Three days before the election, Boockvar extended the number of days that first-time voters would have to present a valid ID in accordance with the Help America Vote Act. (You can read the details of the lawsuit here.)
This was a unilateral move on Boockvar’s part and the Trump campaign is seeking to undo that change and invalidate any such votes cast by voters not meeting the original deadline. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement in support of the lawsuit last night.
“Shrouded in secrecy, Democrats continue to make voting changes in the eleventh hour that will only dilute the integrity of the vote, delay results, and diminish confidence in the outcome. The RNC and Trump Campaign are prepared to take all legal actions to ensure the integrity of the election, and that includes holding rogue Democrat officials accountable. The eyes of a nation are on Pennsylvania, and they must follow the letter of the law that this election and American voters demand.”
At first glance, there’s plenty not to like about the way Pennsylvania went about doing this. Boockvar took a duly enacted law covering electoral procedures and amended it only days away from a national election with zero input from the legislature. We’ve been seeing far too much of that going on this year and I get the sense that the nation is getting rather fed up with members of the executive branch in many states pulling these types of shenanigans and then writing it off as “Because COVID.”
But with that said, the courts have almost uniformly allowed these actions because they tend to fall under the broad category of executive powers during a declared state of emergency. How forgetting to bring your proper ID is impacted by the virus isn’t clear at all, but I’m afraid the courts will obediently back the Secretary of the Commonwealth on this one anyway.
Even if the courts were inclined to agree with the Trump campaign on this one, however, the optics of it alone make this look like a rather dubious move. For the ballots in question, the real issue should be whether or not they were submitted on time and were correctly filled out. Yes, you could try to make the argument that a ballot submitted by a first-time voter without their ID wasn’t technically “submitted,” but the existing law already makes allowances for that, providing a couple of days to straighten out the problem. All Pennsylvania is doing here is extending that grace period.
Beyond that, as I mentioned above, the optics of this maneuver are really lousy. It’s the easiest thing in the world for Democrats to point their fingers and say that Trump is just trying to throw out legally submitted votes. And let’s be honest here… that’s precisely what’s going on. Trump is still holding onto a lead in Pennsylvania and he’d probably like to minimize the number of additional ballots that wind up being counted as much as possible.
Why make yourself out to be the villain over what is probably no more than a relative handful of votes? We’re talking about ballots coming only from first-time voters. And even among that subset, the rule would only apply to those who couldn’t come up with a valid form of ID but were able to bring one back to the Board of Elections three to five days later. If there were even a thousand of them out there I would be shocked.
The Trump campaign could conceivably come out of this being in the right on the legal merits of the question, but they will wind up looking like they’re trying to suppress the vote. It just seems like a significant bruise to soak up for very little in return.