A local judge on Friday rejected an effort by the Trump campaign to send poll watchers to voting sites in Philadelphia, ruling that the campaign’s attempted poll-watching isn’t allowed under state law.
The ruling from Judge Gary Glazer was a victory for Philadelphia officials and a loss for the Trump campaign. The dispute revolved around “satellite election offices,” where election officials register voters, process applications for mail-in ballots,and allow voters to fill out and submit their mail ballots.
The Trump campaign sent unauthorized poll watchers into some of these locations last month, but they were kicked out by local officials. President Donald Trump used this incident to spread false claims about anti-Trump bias at the polls, saying at last week’s debate that “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
The Trump campaign argued in court that these sites are tantamount to Election Day polling places, and therefore its poll watchers should be allowed. The bipartisan Philadelphia City Commission said that while some ballots are being cast in the “satellite” locations, they don’t qualify as polling places under state laws that allow for partisan poll watchers. The judge on Friday sided with the city officials.
“The very detailed Election Code contains no provision that expressly grants the (Trump) Campaign and its representatives a right to serve as watchers at ‘satellite offices’ of the Board of Elections,” Glazer wrote in a 15-page ruling.
He later added, “given their scope, timing, and purpose, the satellite offices do not constitute polling places where watchers have a right to be present under the Election Code.”
Political campaigns are allowed under Pennsylvania law to send trained poll watchers to observe vote counting and other election procedures on Election Day, including the tabulation of mail-in ballots.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, praised the ruling in a statement, saying the decision “makes clear, yet again, that the President’s wild claims don’t hold up in the court of law.”
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee are undertaking an aggressive poll-watching effort in key states across the country. Democrats and some nonpartisan election experts have raised concerns about voter intimidation, especially after the President spoke about sending law enforcement to monitor voting.