Republican election officials in at least three states have refused to certify primary votes, in a sign of things to come amid the party’s baseless election fraud crusade.
Many Trump supporters have repeated the lies about voter fraud while on the campaign trail. Trump-backed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari LakeNevada U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt both claimed evidence of “election stealing” before any votes were cast. Tina Peters, Colorado secretary of state candidate, has twice demandedRecalls of her Republican primary race, which she lost by double digits. Nevada gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert filed a lawsuit alleging that his GOP primary loss was a “mathematical impossibility,” even after a recount he requested confirmed the results.
Trump-allied election officials pose a greater threat than candidates who are allowed to challenge the results of elections according to state guidelines. Trump-endorsed candidates and county officials in New Mexico and Nevada have repeated the same false narratives and refused to sign off on primary results.
Republican commissioners in Otero County, New Mexico last month refused to certifyPrimary results in their GOP-dominated jurisdiction. They cited unspecified concerns over Dominion voting machine machines. These apparently stem from TrumpWorld’s crusade to stoke baseless allegations that the machines had “flipped” votes from Trump to Joe Biden. The Otero County commissioners ultimately relentedThey certified the votes amid concerns about them going to jail after they were taken to court by state officials.
Republican commissioners in rural Esmeralda, Nevada, also refused to certifyThe 317 votes cast in the county during the month of September were attributed to unspecified concerns regarding the election by residents. County officials ultimately relentedAfter spending more than seven hours counting 317 ballots manually, I was satisfied.
Three Republican-led counties in Pennsylvania — Berks, Fayette and Lancaster — have refused to count all valid votes from the May 17 primary election for Senate, Congress, governor and the state legislature for weeks over opposition to the state’s rules regarding undated mail-in ballots.
Last month, officials in all three counties informed state officials that they would not accept mail-in votes that were not properly dated. Associated Press.
Pennsylvania mail ballots instruct voters that they must add a date next their signature to the outside of return envelopes. These dates do not determine eligibility or whether votes were cast on-time. In May, a federal appeals court ruled that undated mail-in votes must be counted. “immaterial.”Even with three Trump-appointed justices on the Supreme Court, it is still the supreme court of the United States. allowed the ruling to stand last month. A state court similarly ruledIn the Republican Senate Primary, undetated ballots should not be counted.
This month, the Pennsylvania Department of State sued the three counties, asking a state court to order them to include all valid ballots “even if the voter failed to write a date on the declaration printed on the ballot’s return envelope.”
The department said in the lawsuit that the handwritten date “is not necessary for any purpose, does not remedy any mischief and does not advance any other objective,” and that “allowing just three county boards to exclude votes that all other county boards have included in their returns creates impermissible discrepancies in the administration of Pennsylvania’s 2022 primary election.”
“Interpreting Pennsylvania law to allow a county board of election to exclude a ballot from its final certified results because of a minor and meaningless irregularity, such as a voter omitting a date from the declaration on a timely received ballot, would fail to fulfill the purpose of the Pennsylvania Election Code and would risk a conflict with both the Pennsylvania Constitution and federal law,” the lawsuit said.
“It is imperative that every legal vote cast by a qualified voter is counted,” Molly Stieber, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, told The New York Times. “The 64 other counties in Pennsylvania have complied and accurately certified their election results. Counties cannot abuse their responsibility for running elections as an excuse to unlawfully disenfranchise voters.”
Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said during an appearance in court on Thursday that he does not have “discretion to determine whether a date is material or immaterial.”
“I simply am obligated to look at the clear language of the law that says undated and/or unsigned ballots will not be counted,” he said during a hearing, claiming that rulings on the ballots have been “anything but clear.”
Leinbach said he “could not in good conscience vote to certify undated ballots,” adding that “this type of issue is what is causing a lack of trust in the system.”
Lancaster County officials said that they Philadelphia Inquirer the county had “properly certified” its results in accordance with state law and court orders.
“The Commonwealth’s demand is contrary to the law or any existing court order,” the county said. “The County will vigorously defend its position to follow the law to ensure the integrity of elections in Lancaster County.”
Fayette County officials stated in a court filing the state had no authority to force them into counting the undated ballots. APThe state had missed the deadline to appeal a decision by a county board decision, the county said. The county also cited ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court, which has yet rule on the merits.
It’s unclear which way the Supreme Court may rule. Only Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted against the emergency order. They argued that it was not fair to the lower court. “very likely wrong.”
The American Civil Liberties Union defended the appellate court ruling after Alito’s dissent.
“Every vote matters, and every valid vote should be counted. Voters may not be disenfranchised for a minor paperwork error like this one,” ACLU attorney Ari Savitzky said in a statement. “The Third Circuit was correct in unanimously reaching that conclusion. We are thrilled for these voters that their ballots can finally now be counted, consistent with the requirements of federal law.”
Matthew Weil, director of the Elections Project at Bipartisan Policy Centre, stated in a statement that the dates on absentee ballot envelopes do not help to determine if a voter is eligible or if the ballot was cast within the deadline.
“Exploiting inconsequential errors or omissions to invalidate otherwise eligible ballots received by the deadline is poor policy and bad for democracy,” he said. “The fact that the state already accepts ballots with incorrect or invalid dates only demonstrates how inconsequential this requirement is to determine the voter’s and the ballot’s eligibility.”
Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias warned that the situation in Pennsylvania is “far more disturbing than those we have seen elsewhere.”
The three counties have a combined population of over 1 million people, he noted, and the issue causing the counties to contest the results has “been fully litigated in both federal and state courts.”
“Most importantly, these counties did not refuse to submit any election results at all. Worse, they submitted results that intentionally exclude lawful votes,” he said, adding that “this is how Republicans are planning to steal elections in the future.”
Experts in nonpartisan elections law agreed that this trend could cause chaos on an even larger scale.
“Had this unfolded on this kind of timeline in 2020, it really could have created problems, because there would have been questions about whether the state could have actually named a slate of electors,” Robert Yablon, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, told the Times. “You could imagine there being disputed slates of electors that were sent to Congress, and it could have been a big mess.”