Federal Judge Knocks 'Uncertain Assumptions' Behind Trump Case to Make PA Ballot Boxes Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Saturday against an effort by President Donald Trump's campaign to name ballot boxes unconstitutional, while also criticizing "uncertain assumptions" made by the campaign regarding voter fraud.

As the opinion by District Judge Nicholas Ranjan explained, Republicans were challenging as unconstitutional the use of ballot "drop boxes," restrictions that require poll watchers to be residents of the county they're assigned to, and guidance by Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Kathy Boockvar that signatures on mail-in ballots do not need to match ones on file.

The court ruled in favor of the defendants and dismissed the case. "Plaintiffs have not presented a concrete injury to warrant federal-court review," Ranjan wrote about the fear of voter fraud, saying that the plaintiffs failed to prove that fraud was "certainly impending." The judge continued to explain that the assumptions weren't concrete: "At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions," he wrote, explaining that the Trump campaign assumed that ballot boxes or less poll watchers may lead to voter fraud. He also said that campaign officials assumed that security methods by county officials would not suffice, and also that their own security measures would prevent fraud.

The other reason Ranjan gave for the dismissal was that even if the suggestions were useful, he didn't feel it was the court's place to "second guess" the regulations already put in place by officials. "[T]he job of an unelected federal judge isn't to suggest election improvements, especially when those improvements contradict the reasoned judgment of democratically elected officials," he wrote.

Ranjan concluded the opinion: "[T]he Court finds that the election regulations put in place by the General Assembly and implemented by Defendants do not significantly burden any right to vote. They are rational. They further important state interests. They align with the Commonwealth's elaborate election-security measures. They do not run afoul of the United States Constitution. They will not otherwise be second-guessed by this Court."

The Trump campaign plans to appeal the decision. "Clearly, we disagree with the Western District's decision on unsecure drop boxes, and President Trump's team will immediately file an appeal to the Third Circuit to continue our fight to protect every Pennsylvania voter. We look forward to a swift Third Circuit decision that will further protect Pennsylvania voters from the Democrats' radical voting system," Trump 2020 general counsel Matthew Morgan said in a statement received by Newsweek.

In his statement Morgan also focused on earlier victories in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding "naked ballots" and preventing third parties from collecting mail ballots, as reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer. "President Trump is winning the fight for a free, fair election in Pennsylvania. The President's team already won in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, killing the Democrats' top wish-list item by keeping their shady ballot harvesting scheme illegal and striking down unsecure naked ballots, and we've continued the fight against the Democrats' completely unmonitored, unsecure drop boxes in the federal courts," Morgan said.

In a statement received by Newsweek, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro celebrated the decision. "This is a win for voters and our democracy. We have been in court for months protecting the right to vote and working to get this outcome for all of you. Vote by mail or in person, however you choose. Your vote will count," he said.

Ballot box
A newly installed Ballot Drop Box for the General Election in California is seen at the Will & Ariel Durant Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library on October 06, 2020 in Hollywood, California. AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty