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Judge Denies Pennsylvania GOP Call for Statewide Poll Watchers

A federal judge denied the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s request to allow poll watchers from anywhere in the state to monitor precincts on Election Day.

Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Gerald J. Pappert said the state GOP’s request was “unreasonably delayed,” is not in the public interest, and does not qualify for last-minute interventions from the court, the Associated Press reported.

“Any intervention at this point risks practical concerns including disruption, confusion or other unforeseen deleterious effects,” Pappert wrote. “Plaintiffs waited until eighteen days before the election to bring this case … Were the Court to enter the requested injunction, poll watchers would be allowed to roam the Commonwealth on election day for the first time in the Election Code’s seventy-nine year history — giving the Commonwealth and county election officials all of five days’ notice to prepare for the change.”

Congressman Bob Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“We don’t need out-of-county people,” Brady said. “They’re just trying to suppress the vote and cause confusion. It’s totally ridiculous.”

The state GOP claimed that the current Pennsylvania law that allows poll-watchers to only monitor locations within the county they’re registered to vote is unconstitutional, and it filed for a temporary restraining order Oct. 21.

Pappert said the decision to intervene would cause an undue burden on election officials the night of the election and struck down an argument by the state GOP that said the law violates free speech.

“To the extent that the Party wishes to allocate newly available poll watchers on election day, it will of course send them to Philadelphia,” Pappert wrote. “The poll watchers will all need to be properly credentialed in Philadelphia County and they will all seek those credentials between now and election day.

“The content of a poll watcher’s statements cannot be characterized as political speech,” Pappert added.

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