Federal Judge In Favor of Democratic PA Senate candidate

UPDATE: Governor Tom Wolf issued the following statement in response to the U.S. District Court decision today reaffirming that Sen. Jim Brewster won re-election to the 45th Senate District in the Pennsylvania State Senate.

Today’s court decision reaffirms that Sen. Brewster won the election. He received the most votes and the court dismissed his opponent’s claims.  Sen. Brewster must be sworn in to represent the 45th Senate District in the Pennsylvania State Senate.

“The tragic events of the past week are a reminder that democracy must be preserved for today and future generations. The voters decide elections, not powerful Harrisburg politicians. Our nation has been through too much pain and disruption for this shameful power grab to continue.

“Senate Republicans may not like the outcome of the election, but they cannot overturn the will of the people in western Pennsylvania or ignore court decisions. The people’s ballots are counted, and the results are accurate. Refusing to seat Sen. Brewster and leaving the district without a voice would be unethical and undemocratic. The Senate Republicans have no choice. Sen. Brewster must be sworn in.”

by Sarah Anne Hughes of Spotlight PA

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.

HARRISBURG — A federal judge has upheld the validity of hundreds of undated mail ballots cast in Allegheny County, ruling in favor of the Democratic candidate in a close state Senate race.

Republican Nicole Ziccarelli filed the suit seeking to throw out 2,349 mail ballots that Allegheny County election officials counted even though they did not have a handwritten date on the outer envelope. Just over 300 of those votes were cast in Ziccarelli’s race against incumbent Democrat Jim Brewster, giving him a 69 vote lead.

But in neighboring Westmoreland County, sections of which fall within the 45th senatorial district, election officials did not count ballots that were not dated by voters. That, Ziccarelli contended through her lawyer Matt Haverstick, violated her due process and equal protection rights.

She lost a similar case that went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

In December, Brewster’s victory was certified by the state. Still, Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate refused to seat him last week during a chaotic session.

And on Friday, the chamber’s top GOP lawmaker, Jake Corman of Centre County, signaled that if the judge didn’t rule on the case’s merits — finding, instead, it wasn’t a federal matter — the Senate could intervene and decide who to seat.

“It is our plan to let the election case in front of the federal district court play out and ultimately seat whoever is successful in that process as long as the findings from the court are to the merit of the challenge and the validity of the disputed ballots and not based on the lack of jurisdiction of the federal courts,” Corman said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) said in a statement he was “deeply disturbed” by Corman’s comments.

“These comments are particularly disturbing in that they demonstrate a pattern of undemocratic behavior from Senator Corman and members of the Senate Republican Caucus,” Costa said. “Three times this week, that caucus has locked arms with Donald Trump in its efforts to disenfranchise voters and threaten democracy.”

While Corman has conceded he doesn’t “have any evidence of misdoing” during the November election, he and other prominent Republicans have repeatedly criticized the Wolf administration and state Supreme Court.

The latter, he and others have argued, overstepped by issuing rulings that accommodated voters during the pandemic. In the case of Brewster and Ziccarelli, three state justices found the lack of a date to be a technical violation of state law, while a fourth said the requirement may not have been clear to voters.

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