GOP’s call for out-of-county poll watchers blocked by judge

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In a scathing rebuke, a federal judge on Thursday denied the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s effort to allow poll watchers from anywhere in the state monitor precincts on Election Day.

Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Gerald J. Pappert said the state GOP’s request was “unreasonably delayed,” is not in the public interest and does not meet the standard for a last-minute intervention from the court.

“Any intervention at this point risks practical concerns including disruption, confusion or other unforeseen deleterious effects,” Pappert wrote. “Plaintiffs waited until eighteen days before the election to bring this case. … Were the Court to enter the requested injunction, poll watchers would be allowed to roam the Commonwealth on election day for the first time in the Election Code’s seventy-nine year history — giving the Commonwealth and county election officials all of five days’ notice to prepare for the change.”

Congressman Bob Brady, who also is chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, said he was happy with the ruling.

“We don’t need out-of-county people,” Brady said. “They’re just trying to suppress the vote and cause confusion. It’s totally ridiculous.”

The state Republican Party filed for a temporary restraining order Oct. 21, claiming that the current Pennsylvania law regarding poll watchers is unconstitutional. State law allows poll watchers to monitor locations only within the county in which they are registered to vote.

The challenge came as polls showed a tight race between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump has warned of “rigged elections” in “other communities” including cities like Philadelphia and has encouraged supporters to monitor the polls.

State Republican Party spokeswoman Megan Sweeney called the ruling “a blow to openness and transparency in our electoral system” and said the party would review its legal options.

COMMENTS