The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled against the Trump campaign in a dispute over Republican observation of the ballot-tabulation process. Across the country, President Donald Trump and his allies have claimed that Republican observers were systematically excluded from the ballot-tabulation process, but this claim is a lie. In Pennsylvania in particular, the Trump campaign challenged the Philadelphia Board of Elections in court over a demand for Republican observers to stand about 15-18 feet away from the ballot-processing work at the Philadelphia Convention Center, which the Republicans claimed was too large of a distance. On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that “the Election Code does not specify minimum distance parameters for the location of” partisan observers.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was split in its decision, with five justices joining the majority opinion against the Trump campaign and two justices in favor of the Trump campaign’s position. A state court has previously ruled against the Trump campaign in this matter, but a subsequent ruling from an appeals court handed the Trump campaign a tentative win, ordering local authorities to allow observers within 6 feet of the ballot-tabulation procedures.
Democrats currently comprise the majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Ballotpedia reports that as of September of 2019, “five judges on the court were elected in partisan elections as Democrats, one judge was elected as a Republican, and one judge was appointed by a Democratic governor.”
The majority opinion in this Trump case read, in part, as follows:
‘In sum, we conclude the board did not act contrary to law in fashioning its regulations governing the positioning of candidate representatives [because] the Election Code does not specify minimum distance parameters for the location of such representatives.’
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been at the center of some other election-related court challenges in the state. Before Election Day, the court extended the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots for counting in Pennsylvania to the third day after Election Day. (Ballots still had to be submitted by Election Day to remain valid.) Republicans have challenged the legitimacy of this deadline extension, alleging that the court took over a policy area that should have been left to the state legislature. In total, Pennsylvania received some 10,000 mail-in ballots between Election Day and the extended receiving deadline. This number of ballots is not enough to swing the state from President-elect Biden, who won the state, even if every one of the votes was counted and for him.