The Trump campaign has been videotaping voters as they deposit ballots in drop boxes in Philadelphia ― a practice that the campaign claims is to document ballot fraud but that the Pennsylvania attorney general warns could amount to illegal voter intimidation.
Linda A. Kerns, a lawyer representing the Trump campaign, complained to city election officials last week after she said campaign representatives took video showing voters dropping more than one ballot into the boxes. Kerns said such behavior is a “blatant violation” of election law. A copy of Kerns’ letter was reviewed by The New York Times.
Under Pennsylvania law, voters are only allowed to deposit their own mail-in or absentee ballot in a drop box, though exceptions exist for voters with disabilities.
Philadelphia city attorney Benjamin Field emphasized that exemption in a response to Kerns Monday.
“Third party delivery is permitted in certain circumstances,” Field wrote. “The Board cannot agree with your conclusion on the basis of the information you provided. Nor can the Board, in exercising its duties, assume that an individual is violating the Election Code when that person can act as an agent for a voter who required assistance.”
Pennsylvania expanded mail-in voting in October, allowing all voters the choice to vote by mail. City and county election authorities have opened drop boxes in recent days, allowing voters to deposit their mail-in ballots without relying on the Postal Service.
A petition that would have allowed third parties to deliver mail-in ballots to drop boxes was denied late last month, potentially causing some confusion.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, told HuffPost in an email that this is actually the second time the Trump campaign has claimed voters are depositing multiple ballots. The campaign’s earlier lawsuit seeking to ban drop boxes cited similar photos, Shapiro said, and was dismissed.
The bigger issue may be the Trump campaign’s surveillance of drop box locations, which Shapiro said may very well be illegal.
“Pennsylvania law permits poll watchers to carry out very discrete and specific duties — videotaping voters at drop boxes is not one of them,” Shapiro said.
“Our entire system of voting is built on your ballot being private and your choice to vote being a personal one. Depending on the circumstance, the act of photographing or recording a voter casting a ballot could be voter intimidation — which is illegal.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told The Associated Press that his office is committed to investigating “any and all” allegations of voter intimidation and harassment.
So far this election cycle, 294 pandemic-related lawsuits have been filed in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
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