DNC Asks To Enter Fray On Pa. GOP Suits Over Mail-In Ballots

Law360 (November 4, 2020, 12:12 PM EST) -- As the 2020 presidential election could come down to Pennsylvania, the Democratic National Committee sought Wednesday to weigh in on lawsuits seeking to block provisional votes cast by people whose mail-in ballots had been canceled by technical defects.

The DNC filed a motion to intervene in a Commonwealth Court case brought Tuesday evening by Pennsylvania state House of Representatives candidates Mike Kelly and Joseph Hamm against Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, and a federal case brought against Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The Democrats argued that since the suits threatened to disenfranchise their voters, the DNC had an interest and should be allowed to intervene.

"Petitioners ask this court to throw out lawfully cast provisional ballots," the petition to intervene in Commonwealth Court said. "The changes proposed by petitioners will result in the Democratic voters being disenfranchised and could harm the electoral prospects of Democratic candidates. As such, the DNC and its members maintain a powerful and legally enforceable interest in Pennsylvania's election processes that is implicated by this lawsuit."

In the state-court lawsuit, Republicans claimed Boockvar had violated state election law by allowing counties, parties and candidates to contact voters whose mail-in ballots were thrown out during the pre-canvassing process for issues like missing signatures or privacy envelopes, so those voters could go to their polling places in person and cast provisional ballots.

The federal lawsuit, focusing on outreach efforts to affected voters in Montgomery County, was filed earlier on Election Day, with the DNC also seeking to intervene and oppose the Republicans' request for a temporary restraining order in that case.

President Donald Trump's reelection campaign had filed challenges on Election Day over another Philadelphia suburb, Bucks County, for following Boockvar's guidance and releasing the names of voters whose ballots were being tossed out, but were denied by Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary B. Gilman.

The Republicans' suits all claimed election officials were violating the Election Code's prohibition on releasing early "results" of the pre-canvassing process, when election workers verify and open mail-in ballots to be counted. Disclosing which ballots were canceled was a "result," the suits said.

Counsel for the challengers and the DNC did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. A representative for Boockvar declined to comment.

The Republican challengers are represented by Thomas E. Breth and Thomas W. King III of Dillon McCandless King Coulter & Graham LLP.

Boockvar is represented by Daniel T. Brier, John B. Dempsey and Donna A. Walsh of Myers Brier & Kelly LLP and Keli M. Neary and Karen M. Mascio of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.

The DNC is represented by Marc E. Elias, Uzoma N. Nkwonta, Courtney A. Elgart, Daniel C. Osher, Laura Hill and Joel Ramirez of Perkins Coie LLP and Edward Rogers and Terence M. Grugan of Ballard Spahr LLP.

The case is Hamm et al. v. Boockvar, case number 600 MD 20, in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

--Editing by Alyssa Miller.

Update: This story has been updated with details about other court challenges filed in Pennsylvania.

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