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Below strain from a Republican lawsuit, Philadelphia officers determined early Tuesday morning to reinstate a time-consuming course of meant to forestall double voting, a transfer that’s anticipated to delay the town’s potential to report a closing tally — maybe by a matter of days.
The transfer comes as election officers in Pennsylvania and different swing states warn that outcomes of tight races might not be identified on election evening. The officers have preemptively pushed again towards claims — resembling these wielded by President Donald Trump after the 2020 election — that delays are an indication of fraud or nefarious exercise.
Philadelphia leaders on Tuesday emphasised that they had been solely taking the extra step that might sluggish the method due to Republican litigation.
“I need to make very clear that when there are conversations that happen later this night about whether or not or not Philadelphia has counted all of their ballots, that the explanations some ballots is not going to be counted is as a result of Republican attorneys focused Philadelphia — and solely Philadelphia — in attempting to drive us to do a process that no different county does,” Metropolis Commissioner Seth Bluestein, a Republican, stated Tuesday at a public assembly of the election board.
The method, often known as “ballot e-book reconciliation,” is a approach to stop double voting that Philadelphia applied in 2020 amid a dramatic growth of mail ballots within the state. It requires that election employees interrupt poll counting to scan ballot books in order that the lists of voters who returned mail ballots may be in comparison with those that voted in-person. The method usually takes three days, courtroom information present.
Ballot e-book reconciliation isn’t required by state legislation, based on courtroom information. And most counties don’t do it. However late final month, the Republican-led group often known as Restoring Integrity and Belief in Elections — which incorporates strategist Karl Rove as a founder and former lawyer normal William P. Barr on its board, — backed a lawsuit looking for to drive Philadelphia election officers to reinstate the method.
In an announcement, the group took credit score for persuading the town to vary its stance.
“Any duplicate vote undermines the integrity of the system. We all know that double voting happens and that it occurs for varied causes, good, dangerous, ugly, and unlawful,” stated Derek Lyons, RITE’s President and CEO. “Conducting the audit will defend the integrity of the depend. As voters more and more choose to vote by mail-in poll, it’s extra essential to audit the ballots to protect towards double voting.”
In a tweet Tuesday, the group stated any delays attributable to the ballot e-book reconciliation can be the fault of metropolis officers.
Metropolis officers argued that the reconciliation course of was labor- and time-intensive and now not wanted given different improved procedures to forestall double-voting and voters’ rising familiarity with mail ballots. Prior to now three elections, the reconciliation course of has discovered zero double votes, courtroom information present.
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Metropolis officers additionally stated they needed to remove the method to adjust to a brand new state legislation that supplied funding to enhance election administration. Philadelphia acquired $5.4 million below that legislation on the situation that poll counting proceed “with out interruption.” Metropolis officers stated they frightened pausing the depend to scan ballot books might be deemed an interruption, which may put them liable to shedding the grant cash.
Democratic teams that intervened within the case stated the lawsuit was an effort to “forged doubt on the validity of mail-in ballots and perpetuate the proof free declare that ‘dangerous issues occur Philadelphia.’”
On Monday, Choose Anne Marie Coyle of the state trial courtroom in Philadelphia declined to order metropolis officers to reinstate the method, discovering that to take action on the eve of the election can be unduly burdensome. However Coyle issued a scathing 13-page order discovering that metropolis officers had “failed to contemplate the encouragement of fraudulent voting that might fairly end result” from their choice. The Republican plaintiffs instantly appealed.
“Whereas we technically received the courtroom case,” Bluestein stated at Tuesday’s assembly, “the opinion was written in a method that we have now no different alternative however to go ahead and reinstate reconciliation.” He and Commissioner Lisa Deeley (D), chairwoman of the election board, voted in favor of reinstating the method; Commissioner Omar Sabir (D) voted towards.
Most mail ballots will likely be counted on Tuesday, based on Deputy Metropolis Commissioner Nick Custodio. However earlier than employees can depend ballots acquired within the final day or two earlier than polls shut, they should spend time scanning within the ballot books, as they’ve achieved within the final a number of elections.