GOP maneuvers to challenge battleground absentee ballots

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Election officials sort absentee and early voting ballots for counting inside Boston City Hall, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

WASHINGTON – Republicans are keeping their legal options open to challenge absentee ballots in Pennsylvania, if the battleground state could swing President Donald Trump's reelection. A top Democratic lawyer says the suits are meant to sow doubt about the results and lack merit.

Two federal lawsuits aim to prevent absentee votes from being counted. The GOP already has laid the groundwork at the Supreme Court for an effort to exclude ballots that arrive after polls close Tuesday. Trump has railed over several days about the high court's pre-election refusal to rule out those ballots.

"You have to have numbers. You can’t have these things delayed for many days and maybe weeks. You can’t do that. The whole world is waiting,” Trump said Tuesday at his campaign headquarters.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, counseled patience Tuesday night. “While counting these ballots will take longer than in past years, Pennsylvania will have a fair election and every eligible vote will be counted, as it must be,” Wolf said.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Republicans accused county officials in Democratic-leaning Montgomery County of improperly giving voters a chance to fix problems with their mail-in ballots before Tuesday. A county spokeswoman said state law doesn’t ban the practice. A federal judge in Philadelphia has set a hearing for Wednesday morning on the Republican bid to stop the count of 49 ballots that were amended in the suburban Philadelphia county.

On Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and five other plaintiffs filed suit in state court to block the state’s counties from allowing voters whose mail-in ballots were disqualified to cast a vote by provisional ballot.

Pennsylvania’s top election official, Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, insisted that the practice is legal and not prohibited by law. Regardless, she said there aren’t “overwhelming” numbers of voters who cast a provisional ballot after their mail-in ballot was disqualified, but she did not give an exact figure.

“So I don’t think this is going to be huge issue no matter which way it goes,” Boockvar said.