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Pennsylvania Ground Zero For Election Lawsuits Now And Perhaps After Election Day

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- State officials have asked the state Supreme Court to rule on whether poll watchers could challenge signatures on mail-in ballots.

It's just the latest example of how both sides in this hotly contested presidential election have been turning to the courts on election-related issues.

Traditionally, how we conduct our elections is a matter for state and county officials, but lately, some want the courts to step in. And legal experts think that could be a prelude to court involvement after the election.

Remember Bush v. Gore when five Republican-appointed justices of the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the vote count in Florida, making George W. Bush president?

"There were a lot of questions raised about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court entering into that particularly controversial area. So the question is, has the Supreme Court learned that lesson?" said professor Amy Wildermuth, dean of the University of Pittsburgh Law School.

Nobody knows, Wildermuth told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday. Wildermuth, who clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 2000s, says that helps explain the multiple lawsuits in Pennsylvania right now.

"At this very critical moment, you're seeing both sides deploying everything that they might be able to deploy because the stakes are exactly that high," says Wildermuth.

For example, the state Supreme Court ruled county officials get three extra days to receive and count ballots postmarked by Election Day. Republicans have appealed that case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The U.S. Supreme Court does not have to hear this case," Wildermuth said. "It has sent some signals though that has made people believe that it is possible they will hear this case."

In another case, a local federal judge ruled against the Trump campaign and four western Pennsylvania Republican congressmen who want to stop country drop boxes, expand poll watchers, and allow a review of signatures on mail-in ballots.

The judge found no evidence of fraud.

"They could certainly seek an appeal to the Third Circuit," Wildermuth said of the Republican lawsuit.

In still another case, state election officials have asked the state Supreme Court to stop signature checks by poll watchers, saying a person's signature today may not resemble the signature when they first registered to vote.

"If you think there's a lot of action now, there's a very good chance we will see even more action post-election," said Wildermuth.

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