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Court tosses case by PA Republican lawmakers against Josh Shapiro’s automatic voter registration order

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a case brought by conservative legislators seeking to throw out Governor Josh Shapiro’s voter registration policy, along with related initiatives from former Gov. Tom Wolf and President Joe Biden.

The order by Judge Jennifer P. Wilson for the Middle District, finds that the plaintiffs — 27 of Pennsylvania’s most conservative state lawmakers —failed to articulate any specific harm that would give them standing to challenge the governor and president.

In tossing the case, Wilson wrote that “a vague, generalized allegation that elections, generally, will be undermined, is not the type of case or controversy that this court may rule on under Article III” of the U.S. Constitution, which governs federal court jurisdiction.

The Republican legislators challenged an executive order from Biden instructing federal agencies to come up with plans to improve voting access, as well as a directive from the Wolf administration regarding driver’s license and social security number matching on voter registration applications.

Finally, the lawsuit also challenged a recent move by Shapiro to change PennDOT’s “motor voter” system so that citizens are automatically ushered into voter registration when they complete their driver’s license form, instead of having to actively opt into it as was the case previously.

The executive actions, the lawmakers claimed, infringed on their rights under the Constitution, which empower state legislatures to define the manner in which elections are conducted.

However, Wilson wrote that the legislators’ claims were too broad to give them federal standing, making arguments only to the general usurpation of legislative power and not any specific impacts of the president and governors’ policies.

Further, Wilson wrote, the plaintiff’s case “overstates the matter, as none of the executive actions challenged in this case remove or divest any authority from the legislature in creating voting regulations within the state.”

In other words, Pennsylvania’s legislature still has the power to change the rules affected by the executive actions – but it hasn’t, and the fact that the plaintiffs don’t like this does not make a federal case.

Wilson also noted that the lawmakers’ filing alleged that the actions by Wolf, Shapiro, and Biden would result in “the pool of Pennsylvania voters [being] manipulated by legally unauthorized, deceptive practices, undermining the integrity of elections across the Commonwealth,” but had not provided enough specifics for this claim to be actionable.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Shapiro sought to tie the case to similarly vague theories made by former President Donald Trump in his failed attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

“In 2020, I defeated Donald Trump and his conspiracy theorist allies in court more than 40 times to defend Pennsylvanians’ votes and protect access to the ballot box,” Shapiro said in an email. “Today, we’ve done it again by getting their frivolous effort to stop automatic voter registration in our Commonwealth dismissed. Automatic voter registration is safe, secure, efficient, and entirely within my administration’s authority.”

Since the PennDOT voter registration change went into effect in September, the state has registered 65,810 new voters, about 50% more new voters relative to the same period two years ago, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York County — the chair of the Pennsylvania House Freedom Caucus, who led the lawsuit — did not immediately respond to a question about whether an appeal is expected.

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Source: Berkshire mont

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