President Donald Trump’s campaign, ordered by a federal judge in Pittsburgh to provide evidence of mail-in ballot fraud in its lawsuit against the state, produced no examples of relevant wrongdoing in its response and said it actually did not have to prove fraud to win.
“They are not asserting that there was any voter fraud in the primary election in June this year,” said Sarah Brannon, an ACLU Voting Rights Project managing attorney in Washington, D.C., who represents several groups that have intervened in the case. “They are asserting there’s a risk of fraud, but they don’t have any actual evidence to support allegations that any fraud has taken place.”
The Trump campaign, three Republican U.S. House members and the Republican National Committee have filed the suit to stop Pennsylvania from allowing counties to offer drop boxes to collect mail-in ballots, claiming the practice is susceptible to fraud.
Brannon explained that the drop boxes are used to collect mail-in ballots that are then gathered on Election Day by county election office workers and taken to be counted.
U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Ranjan, appointed by Trump, agreed with two intervening parties, the Democratic Party and the Sierra Club, that the president’s campaign should present evidence of fraud during the discovery process.
In an Aug. 13 order, Ranjan gave the campaign one day to submit evidence of mail-in fraud.
Brannon represents several other groups that have intervened in the case, including Common Cause of Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, the NAACP and three Allegheny County voters.
Trump campaign attorneys submitted a 524-page discovery document containing emails, Right-to-Know requests to Pennsylvania counties, criminal court filings and news articles. However, in a supplemental response the attorneys said the campaign did not have to provide evidence of fraud to prove its case and they objected to the request for evidence because it “misstates the allegations” in their suit.
“Neither the original Complaint nor the Amended Complaint contains an allegation that ‘ballot harvesting,’ ‘manipulating and destroying ballots,’ double voting, and/or voter fraud from mail-in and absentee ballots actually occurred during the Primary Election,” the campaign’s attorneys wrote.
“Instead, the Complaint and the Amended Complaint both allege that Defendants’ hazardous, hurried, and illegal implementation of unmonitored mail-in voting … provides fraudsters an easy opportunity to engage in ballot harvesting, manipulate or destroy ballots, manufacture duplicitous votes, and sow chaos,” they said.
Included in a list of what Trump campaign attorneys called “significant voter fraud instances,” were examples of ballot box stuffing in 2014, 2015 and 2016; an election judge accepting bribes to add votes during those same years; 40 cases of double voting in 2020, which were caught and fixed, and which officials said did not constitute fraud; and a story about ballot collection in Philadelphia that Trump attorneys described as illegal ballot harvesting.
The examples also included several involving absentee ballots dating from 2015 back to 1993, as well as polling place wrongdoing.
Trump recently applied to vote by mail in Florida and encouraged others there to do so, even though he has criticized the practice in other states.
More than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians applied for mail-in ballots for the primary, and about 1.5 million ended up voting by mail.
With Pennsylvania being a hotly contested battleground state in the presidential race, those numbers are expected to rise amid lingering fears among voters about going to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
J.D. Prose is a reporter with the USA Today Network Pennsylvania State Capitol Bureau.