A state court issued an injunction Wednesday to halt the Pennsylvania election certification. This suspends any further action to certify election results pending a Friday hearing. Judge Patricia McCullough issued the hold order Thursday as Pennsylvania voters filed suit. The suit alleged a violation of the state constitution over absentee voting coverage. The plaintiffs, led by Congressman Mike Kelly, said that Act 77 is unconstitutional. The state law cannot expand coverage of mail-in voting.
In here decision, McCullough said “[T]o the extent that there remains any further action to perfect the certification of the results of the 2020 General Election … for the office of President and Vice President of the United States of America, Respondents are preliminarily enjoined from doing so, pending an evidentiary hearing[,]” As a result, any local races still up for certification are temporarily prevented from continuing the process.
Not Much Impact
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro reacted to the decision. He took to Twitter to say that the injunction doesn’t impact the results. The state already called the election results and selected its electors. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar already certified Biden’s win by 80,555 votes last Tuesday. Shortly thereafter, Governor Tom Wolf appointed the 20 electors for the state.
Still, state officials filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court. They requested a review of whether the judge made an error in granting injunctive relief. Officials say that the plaintiffs failed to satisfy any prerequisites for an injunction. In their motion, the state said that “Since the birth of our nation nearly 250 years ago, no court has ever issued an order purporting to interfere with a state’s ascertainment of its presidential electors — until today.” As a result, Judge McCullough canceled the Friday hearing.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed Act 77 last October 29, 2019, by a vote of 138–61. The State Senate approved it on the same day, 35–14. Governor Tom Wolf signed it into law two days later. The new law expanded the definition and coverage of absentee and mail-in voting. Kelly and company called it “the most expensive and fundamental change to the Pennsylvania election code to date.” They said Act 77 expanded mail-in voting, which is in contrast to Art VII Sec 14 of the state constitution. Section 14 specifies the scope of those who can use absentee voting.
Act 77 says that the shall provide a manner of voting for people who will be outside of their municipality “because their duties, occupation or business require them to be elsewhere or who, on the occurrence of any election, are unable to attend at their proper polling places because of illness or physical disability or who will not attend a polling place because of the observance of a religious holiday or who cannot vote because of election day duties, in the case of a county employee, may vote, and for the return and canvass of their votes in the election district in which they respectively reside.” The lawsuit says that Pennsylvania mail-in votes are legally invalid. Act 77 cannot expand the coverage of absentee voting, as changes require a constitutional amendment. Without a constitutional amendment, a mere bill will not suffice.
Why Not a Year and Two Elections Ago?
Boockvar said that nobody challenged Act 77 a year after it became law. Did she ask why now, after two elections? The plaintiffs “had not offered any explanation, let alone a satisfactory one, for why they delayed bringing their challenge until more than a year (and two elections).”
Strange enough, a majority Republican legislature passed Act 77.
It’s unclear what else can the injunction achieve, as Biden already got the votes. But, plaintiffs suggested several options to continue the fight. This includes the disruption of the assembly of electors scheduled on December 14.
Watch the CBS Pittsburgh report on how a Pennsylvania Judge ordered a halt to the state’s vote certification:
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