A United States federal judge has rejected an attempt by Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign to limit how mail-in ballots are collected in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, a decision hailed as a victory by a civil liberties group.
Elements of US District Judge J Nicholas Ranjan’s ruling on Saturday could be appealed by the US president’s campaign, with less than a month to go before the November 3 elections.
Trump for months has spread misinformation around mail-in ballots, saying the system – which is being widely used across the country due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic – can be manipulated and will lead to voter fraud.
Trump’s campaign wanted the court to free county election officials to disqualify mail-in ballots where the voter’s signature may not match their signature on file and to remove a county residency requirement in state law on certified poll watchers.
It also wanted the court to bar counties from using dropboxes or mobile sites to collect mail-in ballots that are not “staffed, secured, and employed consistently within and across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties”.
VICTORY: We just beat the Trump campaign's illegal attempts to make it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to vote by mail — Pennsylvania voters CAN use dropboxes to return their absentee ballots. https://t.co/W2FNiWWPiq
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 10, 2020
The American Civil Liberties Union, a prominent advocacy group, hailed the court’s decision on Saturday. “VICTORY: We just beat the Trump campaign’s illegal attempts to make it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to vote by mail,” the group tweeted.
“Pennsylvania voters CAN use dropboxes to return their absentee ballots,” the ACLU said.
Pennsylvania, a state in the US northeast, is one of several battleground states, also known as swing states, where both Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have a chance of victory.
Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania on Saturday, while Trump announced plans to hold a campaign event there on Tuesday.
In 2016, Trump won the state over Hillary Clinton by a razor-thin margin of little more than 44,000 votes.