President Donald Trump’s campaign has filed suit against Philadelphia, arguing that its policy of barring poll watchers from newly opened satellite election offices violates Pennsylvania law.
“The Philadelphia County Board of Elections denied, and continues to deny, the campaign its statutory right to have watchers observe the voting process,” Linda Kerns, a lawyer representing the Trump campaign, wrote in a letter to the city’s three commissioners.
The commissioners, in turn, say the Trump campaign has no standing and is trying to intimidate Philadelphia’s overwhelmingly Democratic voters.
The litigation comes on the heels of Trump’s misleading claims of impending voter fraud in Pennsylvania, and his declaration at Tuesday night’s presidential debate that “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
One of the incidents Trump raised as evidence of fraud happened just hours before the debate, when a woman who said she was a poll watcher for Trump’s campaign was blocked by city officials from entering a West Philadelphia satellite election office.
The offices, which opened for the first time Wednesday, allow voters to apply for mail-in ballots, receive them, fill them out and submit them, if they so choose.
Voters can also apply for ballots to fill out later, or drop off ballots they have already received.
Philadelphia officials said the woman did not have a required poll watcher certificate, as they had not yet issued any to the Trump campaign.
And, they argued, poll watchers can’t sit in these satellite offices and watch the proceedings for a simple reason.
“It is not a polling location,” Commissioner Lisa Deeley said. “It is a temporary election office, where services are made available to citizens who would like to register to vote or request their mail-in ballot. They can vote their mail-in ballot there, or they can take it home and vote it at their dining room table.”
Deeley added that she thinks Trump’s comments during the debate, as well as his campaign’s follow-up actions, show that he wants to intimidate voters.