© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Voters cast their ballot in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Voters cast their ballot in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia

By Tim Reid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit by U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that sought to block drop boxes for Pennsylvania’s vote by mail system, a victory for Democrats in a key swing state ahead of November’s election.

The Nov. 3 election promises to be the nation’s largest test of voting by mail due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and Democrats and Republicans are locked in numerous lawsuits that will shape how millions of Americans vote this autumn.

In Pennsylvania, a battleground state Republican Trump won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 and considered essential to his re-election effort, his campaign had sought to ban the use of ballot drop boxes, arguing without foundation that the containers encourage fraud.

The drop boxes, which look like mail boxes, are used by voters who prefer to drop their mail-in ballots off in person, rather than send them through the mail.

Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that an increase in mail-in ballots would lead to a surge in fraud, although Americans have long voted by mail.

The Trump campaign also sought to change a state law that only allows poll watchers to monitor voting sites in their own counties. Trump’s team wanted any Pennsylvania resident to be able to monitor any polling location.

J. Nicholas Ranjan, U.S district judge for western Pennsylvania, said in his ruling dismissing the lawsuit that the Trump campaign’s claims of potential voter fraud were speculative.

In a written ruling, the judge stated: “They must at least prove that such fraud is ‘certainly impending’. They haven’t met that burden.”

Earlier this year the judge asked the Trump campaign to provide evidence of actual fraud, but the campaign declined, arguing it did not have to do so in order to win the case.

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