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National Democrats seek to intervene in GOP-backed challenge to mail voting in Pennsylvania

The DNC is asking to get involved in the Republican effort to nix a mail voting expansion many in the GOP supported in 2019.
Image: Mail-in ballots are counted in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
Mail-in ballots are counted in Lehigh County, Pa., on Nov. 4, 2020.Rachel Wisniewski / Reuters file

The Democratic National Committee is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Pennsylvania Republicans aimed at curbing the use of mail voting, according to a copy of the filing shared with NBC News.

Fourteen Pennsylvania Republican legislators filed a lawsuit against the commonwealth on Aug. 31, arguing that a 2019 law that expanded access to mail voting to all eligible voters was unconstitutional, according to The Associated Press.

Most of the plaintiffs voted to pass the law two years ago — but since then, many Republicans have followed former President Donald Trump's lead in attacking the method of voting.

The DNC and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party filed the motion to intervene on Friday afternoon, arguing that the mail voting law is valid and constitutional.

They are intervening in part because the lawsuit has been expedited by the court, and is expected to move rapidly through the legal process this fall, an attorney representing the DNC said.

In the lead up to the 2020 election, as the coronavirus pandemic prompted election officials in numerous states to expand access to mail voting, then-President Trump repeatedly spread falsehoods about the security of mail voting. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in mail voting, or any kind of voting in the U.S., and mail ballots are verified by election officials with voters' signatures and other mechanisms.

“The DNC is taking action to ensure that all eligible Pennsylvania voters are given an equal opportunity to participate in our elections, and we stand ready to step in to defend the freedom to vote wherever partisan lawsuits are brought to attack voters’ ability to cast a ballot," DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement.

Because of the new law, as well as public health concerns about congregating at the polls during the coronavirus pandemic, mail voting particularly exploded in Pennsylvania, surging a whopping 883 percent in the 2020 election when compared with 2016, according to NBC News election results.

More than 2.6 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail, most of them Democrats. President Joe Biden won the commonwealth by more than 80,000 votes. On Election Night, early returns gave Trump a lead, but once mail ballots were processed, Biden took the lead. Those pivotal electoral votes delivered Biden the presidency on Nov. 7.

The lawsuit is the latest in a nationwide effort by Republican state legislators to rein in mail voting after Democrats uniquely embraced the practice in 2020.

Republicans, led by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, filed a similar suit in Pennsylvania last year and attempted to have millions of Democratic ballots thrown out. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs had waited too long to challenge the mail voting law, which they did only after Trump had lost. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined Republicans' request to stop the certification of the results or to let legislators choose the presidential electors.

“It is more important than ever that we keep up the fight for stronger participation in our democracy, and we are proud to stand with our partners to defend the voices of everyday Pennsylvanians," Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills said in a statement.