President Donald Trump’s plan to sue Pennsylvania in federal court to determine how the state conducts mail-in voting has been effectively shut down by a US district court judge.
The judge, Nicholas Ranjan of the US District Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania, decided Sunday that Trump’s federal lawsuit against the Secretary of the Commonwealth over the use of drop boxes, poll watching and other voting processes should be put on hold, while state court cases about voting move forward.
It’s a setback for Republicans where there are several ongoing cases that could determine how the battleground state’s voters cast ballots this election. Ranjan was appointed by Trump, and the federal courts in some instances can be considered friendlier to conservative interests.
“After carefully considering the arguments raised by the parties, the Court finds that the appropriate course is abstention, at least for the time being. In other words, the Court will apply the brakes to this lawsuit, and allow the Pennsylvania state courts to weigh in and interpret the state statutes that undergird Plaintiffs’ federal- constitutional claims,” Ranjan wrote Sunday.
Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states where Trump has sued to make mail-in voting tougher making this case a closely watched one.
“The President’s fight against the problems of Pennsylvania’s radical new vote-by-mail system has been running on parallel tracks in state and federal court for some time,” Justin Clark, Trump 2020 deputy campaign manager, said in a statement to CNN.
“The judge’s stay today is simply a recognition that the multitude of issues surrounding Pennsylvania’s dangerous voting system—including ballot harvesting and double voting—touch both federal and state constitutional issues. The federal court is simply going to reserve its judgment on this in the hopes that the state court will resolve these serious issues and guarantee that every Pennsylvanian has their vote counted—once.”
Previously, Ranjan had told Trump and the Republicans they needed to provide evidence of fraud in Pennsylvania voting this year because Democrats had sought it. Progressive groups that received the hundreds of pages of evidence called it insufficient.
“The Court finds that instances of voter fraud are relevant to the claims and defenses in this case,” Ranjan wrote earlier this month.
The Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth has separately tried to end all court cases related to how the state votes quickly, so as not to confuse voters. The state official has agreed to receive mail-in ballots up to three days after Election Day. That request to set voting terms and end the court challenges is pending with Pennsylvania’s highest state court.