Federal judge says GOP can't move poll watchers from county to county
Criticized Republican "judicial fire drill"
A federal judge has rejected a bid from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania to block part of a state law that allows poll watchers to serve only within the county where they are registered to vote.
“The legislature’s decision to allow county election officials to credential only poll watchers from their own county is rationally related to the state’s interest in maintaining its county-run election system,” wrote Judge Gerald J. Pappert of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
In the ruling Pappert cautioned, “Allowing poll watchers to work in any county in the Commonwealth could result in certain counties being inundated with prospective poll watchers seeking credentials.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly invited his followers to watch polling areas.
“Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” he said at a rally in Pennsylvania this summer.
Pappert also criticized the party for waiting until 18 days before the election to bring the case.
“There is good reason to avoid last-minute intervention in a state’s election process,” he ruled, adding, “any intervention at this point risks practical concerns including disruption, confusion or other unforeseen deleterious effects.”
He scolded GOP lawyers and wrote, “there was no need for this judicial fire drill and Plaintiffs offer no reasonable explanation of justification for the harried process they created.”
Lawyers for the Republican Party asked for a preliminary injunction arguing that “citizens have a fundamental right to a fair and honest election process” and that the state rules “illegally and arbitrarily” restricted poll watchers from serving only in the county of their residence.