Republicans suffered setbacks to court challenges over the presidential election in three battleground states on Friday. That same day, the law firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, which has been in the limelight for its work for President Donald Trump’s campaign, withdrew from a major Pennsylvania case.
The legal blows began when a federal appeals court rejected an effort to block about 9,300 mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day in Pennsylvania. The judges noted the “vast disruption” and “unprecedented challenges” facing the nation during the Covid-19 pandemic as they upheld the three-day extension.
Chief US Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith said the panel kept in mind "a proposition indisputable in our democratic process: that the lawfully cast vote of every citizen must count.”
Republicans have also asked the US Supreme Court to review the issue. However, there are not enough late-arriving ballots to change the results in Pennsylvania, given President-elect Joe Biden's lead. The Democratic former vice president won the state by about 60,000 votes out of about 6.8 million cast – over the 0.5 percent of the vote that entails an automatic recount.
The Trump campaign or Republican surrogates have filed more than 15 legal challenges in Pennsylvania as they seek to reclaim the state’s 20 electoral votes, but have so far offered no evidence of any widespread voter fraud.
A Philadelphia judge found none as he refused late Friday to reject about 8,300 mail-in ballots there. The campaign has pursued similar litigation in other battleground states, with little to show for it.
In Michigan, a judge Friday refused to stop the certification of election results in the Detriot area, rejecting claims the city had committed fraud and tainted the count with its handling of absentee ballots. This is the third time a judge has declined to intervene in a state-wide count that shows Biden up by more than 140,000 votes.
In Arizona, Trump campaign lawyers dropped their case alleging electoral fraud the same day. A judge dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit seeking the inspection of ballots in metro Phoenix after the campaign’s lawyers acknowledged the small number of ballots at issue wouldn’t change the outcome of how the state voted for president.
“We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit; we are not alleging anyone stealing the election,” Kory Langhofer, a Trump campaign lawyer, declared at the start of the hearing.
The campaign had sought a postponement of Maricopa County’s certification of election results until ballots containing overvotes — instances in which people voted for more candidates than permitted — were inspected.
Legal giant pulls out
Meanwhile, Porter Wright withdrew from a lawsuit that sought to stop Pennsylvania officials from certifying the election results.
Porter Wright filed the motion Thursday, as criticism grew among liberal activists on Twitter, arguing that law firms backing the Republican election challenges were helping Trump defy the will of the American people.
The law firm, which has earned more than $700,000 from the Trump campaign, appeared to take down its Twitter feed Tuesday after it was inundated with attacks. The payments include more than $140,000 paid through a Republican National Committee account for “recount” challenges, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The US appeals court, in denying the request Friday for an injunction, said it was not ruling on the wisdom of the three-day extension or the state court's power to grant it. Instead, the court found the plaintiffs had no right to challenge ballots filed by dutiful voters trying to follow the rules in a chaotic year.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)