After the state appealed her ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a commonwealth judge is defending her decision to order a temporary halt to any actions to certify the state’s 2020 presidential election results pending a hearing on a lawsuit that seeks to void millions of potentially unconstitutional mail-in ballots.
Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough issued a memorandum opinion on Friday explaining her rationale in temporarily stopping the state’s actions to certify its 2020 election results until the lawsuit is heard.
The lawsuit filed by a group of Pennsylvania Republicans, led by Rep. Mike Kelly and 2020 congressional candidate Sean Parnell, claims Pennsylvania’s October 2019 expansion of “no-excuse” mail-in voting “violated the state constitution’s limits on who can cast an absentee ballot,” Law360 reported.
“Petitioners appear to have established a likelihood to succeed on the merits because Petitioners have asserted the Constitution does not provide a mechanism for the legislature to allow for expansion of absentee voting without a constitutional amendment,” McCullough wrote Friday.
“Since this presents an issue of law which has already been thoroughly briefed by the parties, this Court can state that Petitioners have a likelihood of success on the merits of its Pennsylvania Constitutional claim.”
McCullough had issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday halting further certification of the election results pending an evidentiary hearing on the lawsuit, despite the state’s announcement that it had already certified the results of the election Tuesday, Patch reported.
The order said Pennsylvania should stop any further steps toward finalizing the election results until the hearing is held.
Democratic state leaders appealed the order to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as part of their effort to have the lawsuit dismissed, and the hearing that had been scheduled for Friday was postponed.
“Commonwealth court never had jurisdiction to begin with, because the statute also conferred original jurisdiction on Supreme court to consider any challenges,” former Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Byer tweeted in support of dismissing the case.
Commonwealth court never had jurisdiction to begin with, because the statute also conferred original jurisdiction on Supreme Court to consider any challenges. But if Commonwealth Court had original jurisdiction, the appeal to the Supreme Court would have been as of right.
— Robert L. Byer (@Rlbyer) November 26, 2020
The lawsuit seeks to toss out the major voting reform bill that was passed last year, according to Business Insider.
Attorneys for the state that passed the expanded voting bill argued the request to halt the certification of election results had come too late. However, the challengers filed a supplemental application for emergency relief Tuesday night with alternative steps the court could take to help stop the certification, Law360 reported.
“Should it be absolutely necessary, in order for this court to be empowered to provide adequate relief, petitioners may seek for leave from this court to join the slate of presidential and vice presidential electors as additional respondents in this action, and move to enjoin them from taking certain action,” the petition said.
“Because the electors, by law, must perform their duties at the ‘seat of government of this Commonwealth,’ this court may also enjoin respondents from permitting the electors to assemble at such location.”
According to Pennsylvania law, any voter can choose to vote by mail.
However, to qualify for an absentee ballot, Pennsylvania voters must provide a valid reason to request such a ballot.
Voters who qualify for absentee ballots include college students, people whose work takes them away from the municipality where they live, people with physical disability or illness, members of the military and people who may have a conflict due to a religious holiday.
Act 77, which was signed into law in October 2019, created no excuse mail-in voting for all Pennsylvania voters and a 50-day period for voters to request and submit these ballots.
According to the lawsuit, these ballots should be deemed “unconstitutional” because Act 77 overrides legal limitations on absentee voting.
“Act 77 is the most expansive and fundamental change to the Pennsylvania voting code, implemented illegally, to date,” the plaintiffs wrote.
“[It] is another illegal attempt to override the limitations on absentee voting prescribed in the Pennsylvania Constitution, without first following the necessary procedure to amend the constitution to allow for the expansion.”
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