Judge hands Trumps win, rules PA official exceeded authority by changing election deadline

Decision could be appealed to the state Supreme Court

Updated: November 12, 2020 - 4:58pm

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A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ruled in favor of the Trump campaign, ordering that state election officials cannot count ballots that were cast provisionally by voters who did not have proof of identification and then subsequently failed to provide ID by Nov. 9.

Existing Pennsylvania law states voters have until six days after the election – in this case Nov. 9 – to "cure" problems with a ballot, including a lack of identification.

But just weeks before the election, the state's Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots could be accepted up to three days after Election Day, or through Nov. 6. By then Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar – just two days before Election Day –announced that proof of ID could be provided up until Nov. 12.

The state judge ruled that Boockvar "lacked statutory authority" to make such a ruling.

“[T]he Court concludes that Respondent Kathy Boockvar, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Commonwealth, lacked statutory authority to issue the November 1, 2020, guidance to Respondents County Boards of Elections insofar as that guidance purported to change the deadline … for certain electors to verify proof of identification,” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt said in a court order. 

"Accordingly, the court hereby orders the respondents County Board of Elections are enjoined from counting any ballots that have been segregated pursuant to Paragraph 1 of this court's order dated November 5, 2020, granting a special injunction," Leavitt also wrote.

The conclusion is effectively what the Trump campaign argued, saying Boockvar had exceeded her authority.

Leavitt's decision could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

"In shifting the ID deadline, Boockvar, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, had argued that because a mid-September Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision had created a three-day grace period for late-arriving mail ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 to arrive in county election offices, the ID deadlines should naturally be extended as well," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"None of the votes affected by the ruling had yet been included in the state’s official tally – which as of Thursday had Joe Biden at a 54,000-vote advantage over Trump," the paper reported. "But it was unclear just how many ballots statewide would now be thrown out."