Emails obtained by The Daily Beast and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed on Thursday that Republican Party officials in Wisconsin were allegedly asking volunteers to call Pennsylvania Trump voters and have them turn in ballots well after Election Day.
The emails reportedly were sent just hours before President Donald Trump’s Thursday speech declaring that ballots received after Nov. 3 were inherently illegitimate.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
An email obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sent at 5:19 p.m. Thursday by Kenosha for Trump is headlined “Volunteers Urgently Needed.”
It reads: “Trump Victory urgently needs volunteers to make phone calls to Pennsylvania Trump supporters to return their absentee ballots. These phone calls will help President Trump win the election!”
Volunteers are urged to contact a pair of field directors listed in the email. The two, Riley Pella and Joshua Williams, are paid staffers for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, filings with the Federal Election Commission show.
From The Daily Beast:
The request, election lawyers say, appears to flagrantly run afoul of state law. Under Pennsylvania law and a recent state Supreme Court decision, absentee and mail-in ballots are valid as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 6. Any Trump supporter who sends in their ballots either Thursday or Friday would not have it postmarked within the acceptable deadline—creating the precise situation that the president himself has deemed fraudulent and corrupt.
The email, which was sent by the group Kenosha For Trump and forwarded to The Daily Beast, said it was marshaling the effort on behalf of Trump Victory, the committee established by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee to run the field program for the president’s re-election.
Richard Hasen, a noted elections law specialist at the University of California, told the Journal Sentinel: “This seems deeply stupid as it seems to be a solicitation to commit voter fraud. It’s hard to believe this is real.”
The Daily Beast noted that while experts agreed any ballots mailed after Nov. 3 would be illegal, they differed in their theories as to why the Trump campaign was pushing for such a move.
Some considered it a recognition from the president’s campaign that Pennsylvania’s vote count, which remains too close to call, would tilt in favor of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Others speculated that the campaign was encouraging these votes in hopes that one would be accepted, at which point they could petition courts to invalidate the entire pool of absentee ballots—including those properly postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the Friday deadline—by claiming the whole batch was tainted by fraud.
Pennsylvania election law currently holds that ballots received after Election Day without a clear postmark would be presumed valid though subject to rebuttal.
Cliff Levine, a Democratic election lawyer in Pittsburgh, joked to The Daily Beast: “Good excuse for committing a crime. ‘I wanted to make sure others knew how easy it was to rob the bank.’”