PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Republicans faced setbacks over court challenges in three-state presidential elections on the battlefield on Friday, while a law firm that came under fire for its work for President Donald Trump's campaign pulled out of a big business in Pennsylvania.
The legal blows began when a federal appeals court rejected an attempt to block approximately 9,300 mail-in ballots that arrived in Pennsylvania after election day. The judges pointed to the "massive disruption" and "unprecedented challenges" facing the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the three-day extension.
Chief U.S. Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith said the panel kept in mind "a proposal that is indisputable in our democratic process: that the legitimate vote of every citizen should count."
The ruling concerns a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to accept ballots through Friday, Nov. 6, citing the pandemic and concerns about postal delays.
Republicans have also asked the US Supreme Court to review the matter. However, there are not enough latecomers to change the results in Pennsylvania, given President-elect Joe Biden's leadership. The Democratic former vice president won the state by about 60,000 votes out of about 6.8 million votes cast.
The Trump campaign or the Republican surrogates have filed more than 15 legal proceedings in Pennsylvania to reclaim the state's 20 electoral votes, but have so far provided no evidence of any widespread voter fraud.
A judge in Philadelphia found none, as he declined late Friday to reject about 8,300 post-in ballots there. The campaign has fought similar lawsuits in other battlefield states, with little to prove.
In Michigan, a judge on Friday refused to suspend certification of the Detroit area election results, rejecting allegations made by the city that had committed fraud and tarnishing the count with the handling of absent ballots. It's the third time a judge has declined to intervene in a statewide count that shows Biden with more than 140,000 votes.
And in Arizona, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against Trump to inspect the ballots in Metro Phoenix, after the campaign's lawyers acknowledged that the small number of ballots in question would not change the way the state voted for president.
The campaign had called for the postponement of Maricopa County's certification of election results until drown out ballots – cases where people voted for more candidates than allowed – were inspected.
Meanwhile, legal giant Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, who had come under fire for his work for the Trump campaign, withdrew from a lawsuit trying to stop Pennsylvania officials from certifying the election results.
Porter Wright filed the motion Thursday, as criticism grew that law firms backing Republican election challenges were helping Trump defy the will of the American people.
Porter Wright, who has made more than $ 700,000 from the Trump campaign, appeared to be removing his Twitter feed on Tuesday after it was inundated with attacks. The payments include more than $ 140,000, paid through a Republican National Committee account for "recount" challenges, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.
The company did not respond to specific questions about the messages or whether it would no longer fully represent the Trump campaign. In a statement earlier this week, the company said it has a long history of handling election lawsuits before various parties.
“That is why we sometimes have to accept controversial cases. We expect criticism in such cases, and we affirm the right of all individuals to raise concerns and disagreements, ”said the Ohio-based company.
The US appeals court, which on Friday denied the request for an injunction, said it did not rule on the wisdom of the three-day extension or the power of the state court to grant it. Instead, the court found that plaintiffs had no right to challenge ballots submitted by dutiful voters trying to follow the rules in a chaotic year.
"The COVID-19 pandemic … has caused tremendous loss and disruption," Smith wrote before the panel of three judges, which concluded that voters entering via email could be disadvantaged by the process, not unfairly favored.
“While personal ballots issued on time count, ballots issued on time may not count because, given postal rates, they may not have been received before 5pm. on November 6, & # 39; said Smith.
Scolforo reported from Harrisburg. Associated Press authors Ed White in Detroit and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report
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