Trump asked Pa. House speaker to overturn election results

Marc Levy
The Associated Press
President Donald Trump speaks to a small crowd outside the USS North Carolina on Sept. 2, 2020 in Wilmington, North Carolina. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images/TNS)

HARRISBURG — President Donald Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House seeking assistance with flipping the state's election results in his favor.  

Meanwhile, Trump's campaign continues to press lawsuits over Pennsylvania’s election, appealing another case it lost to the state Supreme Court, this time over fewer than 2,000 ballots in a suburban Philadelphia county.

Nine state Republican lawmakers filed another lawsuit in state courts Monday, citing perceived irregularities or complaints over mail-in voting procedures, and asking the court to prevent Pennsylvania from casting its electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden. They included state Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Franklin Township. 

The Electoral College meets Dec. 14.

The moves are among a flurry of activity by Republicans, including in the courts and the state General Assembly, to try to deny a victory to Biden in Pennsylvania, mirroring similar efforts in other battleground states where Trump lost.

In recent days, Trump also has reached out to House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, to find out how he can advance his cause in the state for “legal votes,” Cutler’s spokesman said, as Trump supporters demonstrated outside Cutler’s home and office. Top Republicans have said the legislature cannot legally override the will of voters and pick presidential electors.

The Trump campaign’s appeal, filed Friday, is one of at least five pending cases in which Trump or Republicans are trying to throw out certain ballots or trying to upend Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania over Trump by more than 80,000 votes.

The Bucks County case involves 1,995 mail-in ballots in which voters failed to handwrite their name, address or date on the outside ballot-return envelope, or enclosed their ballot in an inner unmarked secrecy envelope that became unsealed.

The Trump campaign maintains the ballots should be thrown out under state law, although the state Supreme Court, ruling in separate cases, has refused to do so.

House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, speaks with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Friday, June 28, 2019. Cutler helped shepherd a bill through the Legislature that authorizes Gov. Tom Wolf's administration to roll out its own online health insurance exchange in a bid to save money for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who currently buy policies through the federal government's exchange.

The county election board chose to count the ballots, a decision that was upheld in lower courts. Bucks County’s lawyers contend that Trump’s campaign should not be allowed to appeal and point out that the number of ballots in question are far too few to overturn Biden’s win.

In the U.S. Supreme Court, lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, have until Tuesday to respond in a case led by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, of northwestern Pennsylvania.

Kelly and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to block Biden’s victory in the battleground state, throw out the state’s year-old mail-in voting law and all the mail-in ballots cast by voters under that law. Most of the 2.5 million mail-in ballots were cast by Democrats.

The state’s lawyers say justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Even if they did, it would not give Trump the presidency.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court threw out the case on Nov. 28.

Some claims in the newly filed lawsuit have been settled by state courts. Some claims have been thrown out of court.

It includes an affidavit by a U.S. Postal Service contract truck driver who claims he hauled thousands of filled-out mail-in ballots from Bethpage, New York, to Lancaster on Oct. 21, although it’s not clear whether that was unusual or suspicious.

The Postal Service has declined comment, and a spokesperson has said the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General is looking into the matter.

Election officials say the ballots could have been mailed by voters living out of state, while Pennsylvania’s Department of State, which oversees election administration, said it isn’t possible to inject any ballots – much less tens or hundreds of thousands – into an election without detection.

Only registered voters can apply for and receive a ballot, and must fulfill identification requirements, the department said.

Each return envelope is printed with a bar code unique to the voter to prevent anyone from voting twice, it said.

The lawsuit also includes an affidavit by a Republican ballot watcher in Delaware County, a Democratic-leaning suburb of Philadelphia.

The ballot watcher, Gregory Stenstrom, lodged complaints about perceived violations of chain-of-custody procedures for electronic ballot-scanner drives that he connected to large, unexplained additions of vote totals for Biden.

Still, no state or county election official or prosecutor in Pennsylvania has raised evidence of widespread election fraud in the state.

Given a copy of Stenstrom’s affidavit, Delaware County officials called Stenstrom’s information “fundamentally inaccurate,” saying he misunderstood how electronic drives from ballot-scanners are handled.

In a statement, they said Stenstrom’s allegations rely on the proposition that senior county elections staff who worked for years under Republican county administrations were “working in league with the Democratic Party to engage in a mass fraud.”

“It is simply absurd to propose that after years and years of running elections under Republican administrations in Delaware County, they all suddenly became Democratic fraudsters overnight,” county officials said.