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Pa. Appellate Court Sides With Trump in Fight Over ID Deadlines for Voters

November 13, 2020by Jeremy Roebuck The Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar. A Commonwealth Court judge has ruled Boockvar had no authority to push back by three days a date for vote by mail voters to validate their identification against state records. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania appellate court handed President Donald Trump’s campaign a minor victory Thursday, barring counties from including in their final vote tallies a small pool of mail ballots from people who had failed to provide required ID by a Monday deadline.

In a two-page order, a Commonwealth Court judge struck down a decision by the Wolf administration to give voters more time, post-election, to fulfill the ID requirement.

Although state law only requires first-time voters to show ID at the polls, all voters who applied to vote by mail had to be validated their identification against state records by Nov. 9.

Two days before the election, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar pushed that date back by three days, citing a court decision earlier this year that allowed late-arriving mail ballots to be counted as long as they had been mailed by Nov. 3 and received within three days of that date.

In her order Thursday, Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ruled that Boockvar had no authority to do that.

State officials did not immediately return requests for comment on whether they intended to appeal.

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.

But it was unclear just how many ballots statewide would now be thrown out.

The number is likely to be vanishingly small compared to the larger pools of votes Republicans are seeking to have tossed in other ongoing court fights across the state.

For instance, in Philadelphia, the state’s largest county, elections officials on Wednesday issued a list of just more than 2,100 mail ballots in danger of being disqualified because the voter had not provided proof of ID with their application — typically done by providing a driver’s license number — or the proof they did provide did not match information on voter rolls.

City officials issued the list in hopes that those voters could provide the necessary information by the Thursday deadline. But under the Commonwealth Court order, all of them will now be excluded whether the voter responded to the Wednesday alert by providing ID or not.

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.

Leavitt, a Republican, disagreed, noting in her order that had the Supreme Court’s justices wanted an extension, they could have said so in their earlier ruling.

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(c)2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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