Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejects Trump campaign’s effort to block counting certain absentee ballots

The ruling comes as counties in the state are certifying their election results, with several of them — including Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh; Lehigh County, which includes Allentown; and Lancaster County — certifying their results Monday. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt told CNN’s Kate Bolduan he expects that county, Pennsylvania’s largest, to certify later in the day.

President-elect Joe Biden is currently leading in the Keystone State by more than 81,000 votes.

“Here we conclude that while failures to include a handwritten name, address or date in the voter declaration on the back of the outer envelope, while constituting technical violations of the Election Code, do not warrant the wholesale disenfranchisement of thousands of Pennsylvanian voters,” wrote Justice Christine Donohue, who was joined in the opinion by two others in the Monday order.

The ruling affirms a lower court decision permitting the counting of 8,329 absentee and mail-in ballots that arrived by 8 p.m. on Election Day in Philadelphia County but failed to have handwritten names, street addresses or dates.

The court also overturned a lower court decision that rejected 2,349 ballots that were signed but had undated declarations, erasing one of the Trump campaign’s earlier wins. The state Supreme Court reinstated an earlier ruling that permitted those ballots to be counted.

The judges found that since there was no fraud or illegality, the defects did not warrant invalidating ballots.

The court’s majority decision is yet another blow to President Donald Trump’s ongoing efforts to challenge the results of the election in several states, including Pennsylvania, where legal challenges by the President’s campaign have been failing in recent weeks.

Since Election Day, there had been only two wins in court for Republicans, concerning a very small numbers of votes, and more legal losses are likely on the horizon as the campaign continues its efforts.

On Sunday, a federal judge dismissed a closely watched lawsuit from the campaign that sought to invalidate millions of Pennsylvania votes in what was essentially the last major case seeking to throw out or block enough votes that could swing a key state in Trump’s favor.

Trump campaign seeks to block Pennsylvania certification

The Trump campaign asked a federal appellate court Monday for a temporary restraining order to stay Pennsylvania’s certification of the presidential election days after a lower court judge wrote a sharply worded opinion comparing the campaign lawsuit to “Frankenstein’s monster … haphazardly stitched together.”

In a motion to the court, a lawyer for the Trump campaign asserted that the campaign “will suffer irreparable harm if the limited relief sought — a short stay of certification (or its legal effect if certification has already occurred) — is not provided since the relief will not interfere with the appointment of electors for the candidate who has won the most legal votes before the December 8 safe harbor.”

“In short, it would be unconscionable to allow Pennsylvania to certify electors for Biden and then have it turn out that Trump won the race,” the lawyer, Marc A. Scaringi, wrote, adding that allowing certification to proceed would ratify “results of an invalid and constitutionally infirm election process before this case can be heard on its merits.”

He argued: “If the Pennsylvania vote count — including unlawful ballots — is certified and not stayed to permit meaningful review, the electoral votes will be awarded to Biden. If Plaintiffs later prove that the election was invalid, unfair, unequally administered, and included the tabulation of unlawful mail-in ballots, their victory will be Pyrrhic.”

In their motion, the Trump campaign lawyer cited the Bush v. Gore decision saying “the right to vote as the legislature has prescribed is fundamental,” writing that “Defendants not only failed to administer the 2020 Presidential Election in compliance with the manner prescribed by the legislature, but Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights in order to favor Biden over Trump.”

“Unless any legal effects of certification are stayed, Plaintiffs may be left with no remedy because Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for President and Vice President may be awarded to someone else,” the brief read.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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