Matt Rourke / AP
A federal judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to restrict the battlefield state’s use of dropboxes in the current presidential election.
The lawsuit also challenged an instruction from the Secretary of State of Pennsylvania that postal ballot papers should not be rejected if the voter’s signature does not match that on the file, and a state restriction that election observers be residents of the county in which they are assigned .
All of these claims revolved around one common theme: the idea that people without adequate security could commit election fraud. The campaign argued that this fraud would “water down” legitimate votes in violation of the state and US Constitution.
In reality, electoral fraud is extremely rare, despite the fact that Trump has repeated unsubstantiated claims that it is widespread.
U.S. District Court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who drafted the statement, was reluctant to reconsider the ruling by the state assembly and election officials.
“Perhaps plaintiffs are right that guards should be placed near drop boxes, signature-analysis experts examine every postal ballot, election observers should be able to conduct any survey regardless of location, and other security improvements should be made,” wrote Ranjan. “But the job of an unelected federal judge is not to propose electoral improvements, especially if those improvements contradict the reasoned judgment of democratically elected officials.”
Ultimately, the court found that the electoral rules promoted important state interests without significantly encroaching on the right to vote, and were therefore constitutional.
In its 138-page ruling, the judge – one of Trump’s appointments – also found that the Trump campaign had provided no clear evidence that election fraud was actually going to occur. Instead, Ranjan wrote, the campaign merely made a number of “speculative” assumptions: it assumes that “potential fraudsters” might try to fill dropboxes with fake ballot papers and that the election security measures in place to prevent this are not working Amounted to.
“All of these assumptions could be correct and these events could theoretically occur,” wrote Ranjan. “But many things too.” Speculation, Ranjan concluded, was not enough to get the plaintiffs to bring their case.
“Today is another loss for Republicans’ efforts to make voting harder and a victory for democracy and the millions of Pennsylvania voters who will vote by mail,” said Marc Elias, a Democratic electoral lawyer The New York Times. “This court is joining a chorus of other courts to deny false claims of trump fraud, and Republicans continue to advance on cynical political reasons.”
NPR member station WHYY states that the Dropboxes, first used in this year’s elementary school, were used to keep up with the unprecedented demand for mail-in voting. The Trump campaign sued the state and every electoral authority in June over dropboxing and other voting rules.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, described Saturday’s ruling as “a victory for voters and our democracy.”
The Trump campaign plans to appeal the decision.
“We have continued the fight against the totally unsupervised, unsecure dropboxes of the Democrats in the federal courts,” said the campaign’s general counsel, Matthew Morgan Times. “We clearly disagree with the Western Ward’s decision on unsafe Dropboxing and President Trump’s team will be appealing immediately.”
The decision comes just a day after a federal judge in Texas blocked a plan to limit Dropboxing to one per county. Republican Governor Greg Abbott said it was an election security measure to prevent fraud. Democrats accused him of trying to suppress the vote.