Pa. is in the middle of a 2020 ‘litigation arms race’ that’s only going to escalate | Monday Morning Coffee

October 26, 2020 7:23 am

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you’ve been having trouble keeping track of the flurry of court rulings and lawsuits emanating from the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts of late, don’t feel too bad. In the last seven days alone, the state Supreme Court has ruled that counties can’t toss ballots over signature discrepancies; there’s a new federal lawsuit challenging the state’s extended deadline for mail-in ballots, which came hard on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling the state could count late-arriving ballots.

The rulings, suits and countersuits are part of a ‘litigation arms race,’ that have seen the Big Two parties, and others file lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country, putting this year’s election “on track to become the most litigated in history,” Time observed over the weekend.

To date, there have been 380 election-related lawsuits stemming from the pandemic alone, Time reported, citing data compiled by the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project. Four years ago, there were a total of 337 lawsuits, Time reported, citing data compiled bu University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen.

If you guessed that deeply entrenched partisanship has something to do with all this litigation, then award yourself the Double McConnell with a gold leaf cluster. Democrats, joined by advocates, have sued to make it easier to vote, while Republicans, as a rule, have done the opposite. Each have tried to stake out the electoral … er … sorry … moral high ground as their attorneys smack each other silly, gumming up the works, costing the taxpayers money, and generally leaving voters caught in the middle.

(c) Scott Van Blarcom –

As Time notes, Democrats have generally won the challenges to expanded mail-in balloting that Republicans have falsely claimed will lead to widespread fraud. The results have been split in court fights dealing with the actual policies governing mail-in ballots.

The flurry of lawsuits — witness the pace of rulings in Pennsylvania last week — has pumped uncertainty into an already tense election season, one expert tells Time.

“If you’re telling voters on one day that absentee ballots have to be postmarked on such-and-such a day, and you’re telling them the next day it can be postmarked on this day, it gets very difficult to communicate a clear messages to voters so they understand what their rights are,” New York University law professor Rick Pildes told Time.

And if you guessed that the litigation is only going to get worse in the instance of a close election, then award yourself the Regal High Order of Graham with the Toomey Flying Eagle.

The Republican National Committee tells Time it’s “extraordinarily well positioned” for a pitched fight after Election Day, taking advantage of the same “national network of attorneys” that’s been gumming up the works all year.

The Biden campaign tells Time it’s “putting in place an unprecedented voter protection effort with thousands of lawyers and volunteer,” with a legal team that includes former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and famed attorney Walter DellingerTime reported.

And, yes, the swing states, Pennsylvania included, will be Ground Zero for these fights, with state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, telling Time that his office has “a team of lawyers in place ready to beat back any attempt by the president and his enablers.”

Put it all together, and the famed “Brooks Brothers Riot” of Bush v. Gore 20 years ago might end up looking like a church picnic by comparison.

Who’s making the potato salad?

Pennsylvania Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (L) and Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, of the 10th Congressional District. (Photos from WikiMedia Commons Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek)

In PA-10, Democrats are banking on healthcare to win the closing argument.

With just about a week to go before Election Day, Democratic 10th Congressional District candidate Eugene DePasquale is going all in with his final ad, using the example of his late brother, Anthony, who lived with muscular dystrophy, to underline Republican efforts to topple the Affordable Care Act, and with it, protections for people with preexisting conditions.

DePasquale and his opponent, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, have spent much of the fall campaign tangling over Perry’s repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And it took center stage last week during a televised debate on WGAL-TV in Lancaster.

Perry, who has acknowledged that he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will rule against the law in a case it’s slated to hear the week after Election Day, has tried to inoculate himself against criticism, saying he pushed for the creation of high-risk pools for people with preexisting conditions. But studies have shown that such pools would have increased costs for sick Americans, the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported last week.

Democrats were able to capture the majority in the House in 2018 largely on the back of GOP attacks on Obamacare. Polls this season show majorities of voters still supportive of the law, and they don’t want to see the Supreme Court overturn it. Joe Biden gets the edge over Donald Trump on all health policy issues, according to an Oct. 16 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Bucks County’s 1st District, Democratic hopeful Christina Finello is also attacking GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick for his healthcare votes, sensing a winning issue.

“300K people in #PA01 have a preexisting condition & are on the brink of losing healthcare coverage. Brian Fitzpatrick voted for the tax bill that got us into this nightmare scenario. He needs to explain why he sided with Trump & turned his back on the families of our district,” Finello wrote on Twitter.

The two seats are among the most closely watched congressional races in the country. Democratic victories in one, or both, of those races could well end up being the proof of the effectiveness of those arguments.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Former Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopeful Paul Mango is running point on the Trump administration’s efforts to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson reports. The western Pennsylvania Republican’s name is also coming up in conversations about the 2022 races for governor and U.S. Senate, now that’s there’s an enormous, Toomey-shaped hole in the GOP field in both contests.

In this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller takes a look at Halloween spending during the pandemic.

Heading into the home stretch, Republicans have furthered narrowed their registration gap with Democrats, Correspondent Nick Field reports.

And, faced with historic, ‘voter anxiety,’ our Hearken Election SOS Fellow Kenny Cooper explains how one group is making sure voters are armed with the info they need on Election Day.

On our Commentary Page today. the Rev. Sandra Strauss, of the Pennsylvania Council of Churchesexplains why wearing a mask is actually an act of love.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: A screen displays the campaign banner for U.S. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence following Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Inquirer profiles Northampton County, which went for Donald Trump in 2016, and where Joe Biden needs a win in 2020.
The Post-Gazette says presidential campaign ads are ‘swamping’ the state’s airwaves and digital space.
Bucknell University has canceled classes for a week because of an increase in COVID-19 cases, PennLive reports (paywall).
People are already lining up at this early hour for President Donald Trump’s rally in must-win Northampton County today, the Morning Call reports.
GoErie takes a look at the mental health toll the pandemic is exacting on public schools students.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day.


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The food must’ve taken forever…

A post shared by Samantha Galvez (@samanthargalvez) on

WHYY-FM talks to Philadelphia Catholics about Pope Francis’ call for same-sex unions.
WESA-FM has what you need to know about Bernie Sanders’ campaign stop in Pittsburgh.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, has raised $365K to Democratic challenger Kristy Gnibus’ $280K in the new round of campaign finance filings, PoliticsPA reports. looks at the ongoing effort to remove racist names from public spaces.
After staff tested positive for COVID-19, Vice President Mike Pence has deemed his presence ‘essential’ and defied quarantine, NYMag’s Intelligencer reports.

What Goes On.
11 a.m, Soldiers & Sailors Grove: Advocates end a 40-day fast to speak in support of a bill that would help undocumented people get Pennsylvania drivers licenses.
2 p.m. G50 Irvis: House Democratic Policy Committee.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition). 
State Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, holds a 5:30 p.m. reception at Running Pump Farm in suburban Harrisburg. Admission runs $150 to $1,000.

You Say it’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star Associate Editor Cassie Miller, and to Pitt PR guy Kevin Zwick, both of whom celebrated on Saturday. Current congrats to Pittsburgh PR maven Jodi Hirsh, and to longtime Friend O’The BlogAndrea Mead, both of whom celebrate today. A hearty Morning Coffee mazel tov to all concerned.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolute classic from legendary Scottish indie poppers, Orange Juice. It’s the fantastic ‘Rip it Up.’ 

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford 
has put his celebrity to work, and is pushing for the British government to guarantee food for poor children during school breaks. British schools are on half-term break this week. The Guardian has the story.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.