Pa. Commonwealth Court rules Trump campaign can observe Philly ballot count; city appeals

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Trump campaign is celebrating “a major victory for election integrity” after a court order ruled their observers can get much closer to the ballot counters in Philadelphia.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled Thursday morning that Trump campaign observers are allowed to watch the ballot-counting process in Philadelphia “within 6 feet.”

A day prior, the Trump campaign filed suit to “temporarily halt” the ballot count due to what it called a lack of transparency.

The campaign claims Republican observers were forced to stay 25 feet or more away from the counting process in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where Philadelphia’s ballot count is still ongoing. Those claims have not been verified.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ordered the Philadelphia County Board of Elections and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to permit the Trump camp “closer observation of the canvassing of ballots.”

“All candidates, watchers, or candidate representatives … (are) permitted to observe all aspects of the canvassing process within 6 feet, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, including, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing,” the decision reads, in part.

In her opinion, Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon said the Trump camp’s “inability to actually observe the canvassing processes in any meaningful way completely frustrates the intent of the Election Code.”

As demonstrators on one side of Arch Street chanted for all votes to be counted, a group of the president’s supporters gathered around senior Trump aide Corey Lewandowski and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

With the court order in hand, Bondi said their observers now have the right to get closer to the ballot counters.

“Our team of 15 people will be headed in right now to observe the vote-counting process,” she said. “This is very important because as you know they have kept us away — 30 to 50 to 100 feet — with a barricade.”

Lewandowski added they’ll be able to shed light on what’s going on in the Convention Center.

“Our observers are gonna be 6 feet behind every person who’s counting these votes in accordance with COVID protocols,” he said. “This is a win for every person who has cast a legal ballot in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement before the court ruling, emphasizing what he’s been saying throughout the ballot-counting process: “Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and no amount of intimidation will stop our dedicated election officials. … The planned attacks on our elections this morning are undemocratic and all elected officials must denounce them.”

President Donald Trump sent several tweets Thursday, praising the “big legal win in Pennsylvania,” as he continues his calls to “STOP THE COUNT!” and “STOP THE FRAUD!”

He added in a statement: “IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION! IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!”

The public has been able to watch the count in Philadelphia via livestream.

City officials maintain the process has been transparent, and there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The city’s Board of Elections has appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, arguing the Commonwealth Court’s ruling “jeopardizes both the safety of the city defendants’ canvass, plus the privacy of voters.”

“A political campaign has brought a belated challenge to the processes the Board has put in place,” reads part of the petition, “asking the courts to somehow redesign the Board’s entire facility, based solely on the observations of one lawyer-witness.”

The Trump campaign also filed a new federal lawsuit late Thursday that was argued at the federal courthouse in Center City, alleging that Philadelphia elections officials were violating their due process rights and they wanted to stop the vote counting.

Trump campaign lawyers said the board of elections disobeyed all day long the ballot processing procedure already put forward by the Commonwealth Court.

However, the judge denied that emergency injunction and told both sides to “work it out.”