A Pro Bono Lawyer for Trump Campaign Shares What He Saw in Pennsylvania
Election officials count ballots at the Allegheny County elections warehouse on Nov. 6 in Pittsburgh as Pennsylvania remains undecided. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Tom Ranieri is a lawyer who volunteered as a representative of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, working at an Election Day hotline. He was there from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 and joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share what he observed.https://player.acast.com/thedailysignal/episodes/tds_110620_special
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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Tom Ranieri. He’s an associate attorney at Faughnan Mendicino. Tom, It’s great to have you with us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Tom Ranieri: I am deliriously happy to be here myself.
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Del Guidice: Well, thanks for making time to talk with us. First off, Tom, can you tell us where you have been working in Pennsylvania at the Election Day hotline and what you were observing?
Ranieri: Certainly. I was, as I would imagine many fellow people similarly situated to myself [were], watching with increasing concern as the Democrats attempted to change the rules of the election over the last year. Obviously, I think to make it more easy for them to pull the kind of tricks that I know that they’ve pulled in the past, having been from Pennsylvania.
I didn’t realize that they would be as brazen as they’ve been. And to a certain extent, as a Republican, you expect Democrats to cheat a little bit. And so you need to be on hand to make sure to hold them to account, make sure they follow the law because if left unobserved, they would just do whatever they wanted to do.
So I reached out to the Republican National Lawyers Association and volunteered my time. I told them anywhere they needed me [I’d go]—I’d be able to go to Florida, I’d be able to go to Pennsylvania. I’m from Virginia. I’d be happy to stay here. I just told them, “Send me where you want me and I will go and be content.”
And they got in touch with me a couple of weeks before Election Day and said, “We’ve decided that we really want you up in Pittsburgh. We have a bunch of people in Philadelphia, but we still need the Western Pennsylvania legal team to be bolstered, especially on Election Day.”
I said, “Absolutely, I’ll go.” So I drove up after work on Friday, October the 30th to the headquarters … in Allegheny County, which I’m not going to tell you where that is because I don’t want it to be targeted, but I went up there and we got plugged in.
And then for the first few days, what we did over that entire weekend to that Monday was we worked incredibly hard, getting poll watchers and canvas watchers signed up, trained and credentialed, so that they could legally observe the polls and legally observe the canvas locations.
On Election Day itself, I was asked to take the first shift. We had broken up the watching of the canvas into four shifts for that first day—from 7 to 11, 11 to 3, 3 to 7, 7 to 11—to have at least a couple of lawyers and several volunteers on hand to watch the pre-canvassers.
That is the people that are opening, verifying, and then counting the ballots that were sent absentee or mail-in, to watch to make sure that they followed the proper procedure in law and that everything was done above board.
Del Guidice: Tom, you were there, what did you see specifically on Election Day? Can you walk us through some of the things you observed as you were there?
Ranieri: Well, the first thing that happened was, I walked in to the pre-canvas location at 7 that morning, around 7:30, actually. And there was a line of people trying to get in to watch the pre-canvas. And this guard came up to me. This Allegheny County worker was manning the door and he was very agitated. I didn’t understand why, but he very much wanted to talk to me.
So he ended up talking to me for 15 minutes. And in the course of that 15 minutes, told me that he had observed them turning on the voting machine the day before, he had seen them running ballots through it. And when he asked them what they were doing, they told him that they were just removing deceased people, but you’re not supposed to do that until 7 a.m. on the day of the election. So, that was probably a lie.
So automatically, first thing I hear, eye witness testimony from a county worker that they had been tampering with the machine in Allegheny County before the day of the election and had been counting or otherwise using the machine to get votes or to do something before they were legally allowed to do so. So immediately, I’m thinking this is shady.
I try to get in, I see the canvas location. And then there are cameras in an entirely different section of the warehouse, pointed at where the canvas workers are working, but they are bad cameras. They’re not very good.
And there’s only a few of them and they are placed so far away that you can see the people who are counting the ballots, but you can’t see the ballots they’re counting, which is the whole purpose of having a canvas watcher. The canvas watcher is not there to watch people. He’s there to watch the ballots.
The reason it’s important is because the Pennsylvania law for absentee and mail-in ballots states very clearly that no mail-in ballot is valid where the outer envelope is noncertified by the elector, or as I say, the voter.
And if there is no secrecy ballot—that is to say, no secrecy envelope containing a ballot inside of the outer certifying envelope—it is not a valid ballot. It is called a naked ballot, and it should be put aside immediately.
And if the secrecy ballot inside of the outer certification ballot has any markings, which tend to identify the elector or his political preferences or in any way attempts to communicate to the person who’s looking at the secrecy ballot the preferences or desires of the elector, those are also immediately disqualified. They’re not valid votes and they should be put aside.
Now, as you can imagine, you need to be able to actually see the ballot for that to work. You have to see the certification. You have to see the signature. You have to see the date and the address. You have to see that there are no markings on the secrecy ballot, and you have to make sure there’s a secrecy ballot.
None of which you can do if there’s a camera put up 20 feet away from where the people are opening the ballots and you are put in another room inside of the canvas location, away from the canvassers, and given a couple of television screens with teeny-tiny pictures of these guys counting votes.
When asked, this guy I know, another attorney there, David, he asked—I think it was David, it may have been Kathy—asked, “Well, all of this seems odd. It seems like we can’t really observe the ballots. So there’s really no point in being here, right?”
And he goes, “Yeah, that’s the point.” He literally admitted that the whole purpose was to keep us from watching the people counting the ballots.
Del Guidice: And you should have been able to be in the room, but it sounds like you were not permitted, correct?
Ranieri: Oh, no. None of us were permitted to actually be in the same room as canvassers. And the fact of the matter is that that’s not what the rules say. And as a result, we have no idea how many ballots were improperly cast.
We saw them sorting and organizing ballots. We didn’t know—they were putting some ballots in one bin and other ballots in another bin. It’s not necessarily sinister, if you know what they’re doing and why, but if they are refusing to tell you or refusing to allow you to watch, they could be doing anything. And there’s no way of knowing.
Therefore, once the ballot is out of the envelope, that’s it. Right? That’s the whole reason it’s important to have pre-canvas watchers is because once the ballot is out of the envelopes, there’s no way of telling whether it’s a legitimate vote or not, because it’s just a ballot. So by doing that, they, in essence, were attempting to kind of present America with a fait accompli:
“Maybe we cheated, maybe we didn’t, but we have more votes.”
“Well, who watched you count them?”
“No one, but we did count them and, look, there are more of them.”
“Well, OK. But it’s not a real election. You did it unobserved. You could be lying about all of this and there’s no way for us to know. Because if you wanted to, you could just slip in a whole set of ballots that aren’t properly marked or certified or connected to any particular elector and count them and say, ‘Ah, look, [Joe] Biden won.’”
And that’s what I suspect they were doing.
They’ve been fighting us in our ability to watch the polls as well as the canvas and pre-canvas the instant we started the election. They kept us from trying to see.
Let me ask you, what kind of person tries to prevent you from watching people who are supposed to or who are supposedly doing their jobs in an ethical fashion? Why would you want to stop someone from seeing that? I don’t understand except if you’re trying to cheat, except if you’re not trying to be ethical.
My only concern is that it won’t matter because they have already counted so many of these ballots whose provenance or integrity is completely unknown.
And they’ll just say, “Ah, well, that’s just how it is.” And then the courts won’t want to overturn an election, even though it was stolen because it wasn’t an election. And that will cause all sorts of political problems for them.
So the Democrats just seem to be banking on the fact that no one’s going to want to make the necessary trouble to hold them to account.
Del Guidice: So, Tom, as Election Day progressed, can you tell us about what you observed during the day?
Ranieri: After leaving the pre-canvas, I went back to the law offices where the main place for Election Day operations, EDO, in Pittsburgh [was] with around 35 other volunteer attorneys from across the United States, and the firm had set up a hotline now.
We weren’t getting calls at first and the reason we weren’t getting calls was that apparently, I don’t know if this has been confirmed or not, but my understanding from the people in charge was that the switchboard had been hacked and that there were a bunch of problems with it and no calls were being routed to us. So that took several hours to address.
But during the course of the day, we received hundreds of calls from both voters and poll watchers reporting things such as, well, … Republican poll watchers were being consistently ejected or refused entry to poll locations.
In fact, one of the places, the person in charge of the poll said something along the lines of, … it uses a bad word, but he said something along the lines of, “Well, they’re on that Trump stuff. So we’re not going to let them in.” So there were things like that.
… In the Penn Hills, I know there were reports of poll watchers and workers wearing Black Lives Matter paraphernalia, which is a violation of electioneering law.
The HCLU along with Sunrise USA and several other leftist coalition organizations bound together to create something called, like, the Voter Protection Program, or I don’t know, some nonsense. Obviously designed to do something different than what it says it was designed to do.
So you had poll watchers wearing official lanyards that said like “Official Vote Protector” and were offering to help people cast ballots, which is, again, illegal.
You’re not allowed to see another person’s ballot and you’re also, unless under these very specific circumstances, you’re not allowed to be in a polling location. You’re not to be allowed to be in the same place where a ballot is being cast if you are not an authorized representative of the person casting the ballot.
But because they had these little lanyards, people were going up to them and they were helping them fill out ballots and they were helping them. They were talking to them about the election, all of which is just electioneering. It’s illegal.
You can put as much of an objective facade on it as you want to or say, “Oh, we’re just trying to keep voters protected,” but it’s not. You’re not doing that. You’re using it to influence the election. It’s obvious. Everyone sees what you’re doing.
So in the beginning, in the very beginning of Election Day, what you want to do is, the poll watcher needs to keep an eye out to make sure that the machine that counts the ballots is at what’s called zero. So that you know that the machine hasn’t been reset after the most recent election, has not been used to count anything, and that you’re starting from scratch.
Multiple poll watchers were prevented from verifying the vote total was at zero on machines at several locations. Which means, again, the counts cast that entire precinct’s voting into doubt because now we don’t know whether or not it had been pre-populated with votes.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, of course. We don’t know one way or the other, but it certainly doesn’t increase our confidence in the vote totals for whatever precinct that prevented that from occurring.
There were some places where the number of people in the official voter rolls having been counted as having cast ballots was greater than the number of people who had been observed entering the polling location. That’s a problem because it indicates people were voting who didn’t actually come, which means that we don’t know who voted for them or if they even did vote themselves.
There were multiple reports of people who had already been counted as having voted, despite not having received an absentee ballot or having voted in the least even more egregiously. I understand that this is an orgy of bad news. Do you want me to continue or am I giving you—
Del Guidice: Oh, continue. Please continue.
Ranieri: OK. One of the biggest problems is that in Pennsylvania, anyone can cast a provisional ballot, even if that person is not eligible to vote.
Because … in case there is a problem, in case the elector had been lost in the shuffle of Election Day, whether he had just moved to the state or county, or it was his first time voting, or any number of things like that, he may be eligible to vote, she may not be eligible to vote. There’s no way of really knowing.
So we allow them to cast a provisional ballot and then check the legal status of the elector after the election if they assert their ballot as being true, genuine, and correct within three days of having cast it, which they should be informed of at the poll.
This is important because it preserves votes that might otherwise go uncounted, which would otherwise be legitimate votes. So it’s certainly something we would want to pay attention to and make sure that it was done correctly and honestly.
Now, many polling locations refused to give people provisional ballots and turn them away. That’s a real problem because, again, the understanding is that the Trump supporters were going to be coming out in force on Election Day itself.
So any attempt to prevent people from being able to vote provisionally is an attempt to suppress the vote because the likelihood that the person coming out to vote on Election Day itself is a Trump supporter. So you’re more likely than not to keep a Trump supporter from voting provisionally if you don’t give them a provisional ballot.
That happened a lot. There were chronic shortages of provisional ballots. They were turning people away. They were refusing to give people provisional ballots, and we had to send lawyers to several locations to force them to do it. And even then, once the lawyers leave, who knows if they continue to or not.
Another type of vote that matters is, oh, so you were allowed to vote on the machines in person because any in-person voting is different than pre-canvas.
You have essentially four different types of voting. You have your normal, in-person voting, which you fill a ballot out and then you cast a ballot and it’s counted when you cast it or … you’re marked as having voted and then it gets counted later.
Because those are all cast between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day itself, that’s very straightforward stuff. Those are good votes. And then you have your absentee and your mail-in ballots. Those are early voting. …
So the votes that you cast in person on the day, those votes get canvassed. Your absentee ballots and your mail-in ballots, those do not get canvassed.
Those get pre-canvassed because they were not voted on Election Day. They are considered to be an illegally inferior form of voting. It’s still acceptable, but it does not have the same legal strength or … reliability as in-person voting does.
And that’s why you have these outer certification envelopes, inner secrecy envelopes, and then the ballot, is to help bolster the credibility and security of mail-in voting. Those things are all pre-canvassed, again, starting on Election Day at 7 a.m.
Then you have the military and overseas ballots. Those are different. Those are given much more leeway … because they have a very special paper. They use a very special envelope. They’re just different in the way that they’re counted and we have it all really locked in because we know who’s in the military. We know who the overseas citizens are.
So those tend to be pretty reliable. Those get counted once they come in. And I’m not certain what they call that. I didn’t do a lot of research into it.
And then, finally, you have designated election officials who will bring votes in from drop box locations because early voting ended the Tuesday before the election in Pennsylvania, where people were still allowed to, in essence, drop off their Election Day ballot early at designated drop boxes, which would then be locked at 8 p.m. and brought down to the canvassing location to be canvassed, again, having considered it being voted on Election Day itself.
Now, if they aren’t postmarked, the law is very clear that they can’t be counted.
Of course, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that they can be. They are given the presumption of having been a valid vote, which is absurd, because it, in essence, makes the other team, as I say, anyone who wants to challenge the validity of a vote, into the unenviable position of having to argue in negative, this was not voted on election. There’s no way of proving that if there’s a presumption that it was.
That means that anyone could just gather up a whole bunch … of envelopes, thousands upon thousands of envelopes, [and] not worry about putting a postmark on.
And now it’s very clear that the secretary of state’s directive about how to handle mail-in and absentee ballots and other non-Election Day ballots is that they have to be delivered by the [U.S. Postal Service] and received by the canvas location that they’re destined for.
Now, if they don’t have a postmark, they are technically in violation of the Democratic secretary of state’s order regarding mail-in ballots, but no one seems to care about that in Pennsylvania. In fact, they pulled a dirty trick when the Supreme Court issued a stay.
One of the main reasons the Supreme Court issued a stay was that the secretary of state had sent the letter to the Supreme Court. The secretary of state of Pennsylvania sent a letter to the Supreme Court of the United States saying that:
Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sequester ballots that are voted after 8 p.m. on Election Day. We’re going to sequester them, and we’re not going count them. And then once we deal with this whole trial, once we deal with the whole legal issue of whether or not these ballots can be counted, then if we’re allowed to, we’ll open them and count them.
And so the Supreme Court, based on that letter, gave that stay. That kind of led to the problems in Pennsylvania that we’re seeing now.
The day before the election, the secretary of state issued another directive saying that actually what they were going to do is … they would sequester everything received after 8 p.m., but they were going to open it, canvas it, count it. And since we’re not allowed to watch that process, they could do whatever they wanted to. And it’s a technical violation of the spirit.
If I’m the Supreme Court of the United States, I’m furious because the secretary of state in essence lied, right? She said that we would follow this procedure and then at the very last second changed the procedure, and so doing, changes the entire political landscape of the election, and there’s not a damn thing the Supreme Court can do about it.
Del Guidice: Is there any way that can be appealed?
Ranieri: Yes. I’m certain it will be appealed, but how much damage is going to be done and how …
The problem is that you already have news media people calling states for Biden and against [President Donald] Trump in which these abuses have occurred, and the popular perception of the legitimacy of one candidate or another is going to be affected by what the government officials say.
And we know that the news media has an ax to grind. So we know that they’re going to use any and everything to make their case that Biden won, regardless of any cheating, abuse, election interference by domestic actors, or any other illegal activity.
They’re going to ignore all that and they’re just going to make it sound like this was a democratic thing, a democratically elected president, and that President Trump is just sour grapes.
And so the real issue, and this is what they planned all along, was to basically just … cheat and then everyone’s going to cover for them and not everyone’s going to know about it, and that people will think that they didn’t steal the election when they did.
But the fact of the matter is that when you see the same kind of behavior across different states consistently—so if you see Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all were doing the same stuff, all the Democratic government officials, the governors and secretaries of state and attorneys general, were all pulling the same stuff at the same time, and they have all been fighting the ability of the Trump campaign to witness what’s happening, that is not something that happens by accident, that’s coordination.
They are coordinating and have been coordinating. And that coordination is malign. I mean, it’d be fine if they were just coordinating like anyone else coordinates, like, “We need to make this argument to the American people. We need to get these people out to vote.” … That’s all good stuff. That’s what you want to have happen.
But the coordination where you are deliberately trying to flout Election Day laws that ensure the integrity of elections, and then essentially just present everyone with a fait accompli, regardless of how true it is or not, a definitive statement, “Here’s who won and now shut up about it,” … I can’t interpret it as anything other than corruption.
Del Guidice: Well, Tom, given the fact that we’ve talked about how there have been so many people that have potentially voted illegally—I know that there are at least 21,000 dead people on the voter rolls in Pennsylvania—then given the fact that you talked about ballots are being counted days after the election ended, even though the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed that, how likely do you think that it is that this will be going to the Supreme Court?
Ranieri: I would give it a 90% certainty because I think we’re going to have a Bush v. Gore election. We’re going to have to listen to another four years of when Trump wins, which I do believe he will win if we’re successful in the courts, if we get these problems addressed, we’ll have to endure another four years of the left acting like he didn’t win the election properly.
First, it was election interference by Russia. Apparently now it’s, I guess, voter suppression. I know whatever it is, they’re not going to accept the result unless that’s what they want. It’s going to have to go to the Supreme Court.
I mean, listen, they have so exposed themselves at this point. The left has so exposed themselves, and the news media and academia and all of them, as the hacks, the partisan hacks, that they are completely incapable of objectivity. That if they don’t win, their entire world is going to crash.
That’s why they’re fighting so hard, is when Trump won, all of a sudden their little gravy train came to a halt and it wasn’t as easy for them to take money from China. It wasn’t as easy for them to do all the things they had been doing that kept America in decline.
I’m telling you why it’s going to go to the Supreme Court. It’s going to go to the Supreme Court because the fact of the matter is that for the past year, the news media and the Democrats have been lying to the American people about the polls and everything else.
They have been manipulating votes. They are clearly corrupt and are unafraid of misusing government resources for their own political aims.
Once you’ve revealed yourself to be power hungry and unprincipled, you don’t get to win elections again unless you force it down the throat, you brute force it in.
This entire election is an attempt by the establishment to brute force re-control over that federal apparatus. It has to go to the Supreme Court because they will not give in otherwise. Even then, I’m not certain they will.
Del Guidice: Well, we’re running out of time, but two more quick questions.
First off, we’ve been talking about litigation in Pennsylvania. There are several lawsuits currently in this state with the Trump campaign filing a new lawsuit against the Philadelphia election officials and Republican lawsuits that are basically alleging Deputy Election Secretary Jonathan Marks violated state code by notifying Democrat Party representatives of ballots that were rejected before the polls closed.
Do you have any perspective on these since you were on the ground in the state?
Ranieri: My perspective is, I mean, it should be unsurprising, of course, since I worked for the campaign, but my perspective is that they should win on the merits.
The stuff that I was seeing and hearing is utterly unacceptable and in direct contradiction to both federal election law as well as Pennsylvania election law, as well as several safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution.
Anything can happen in the courts. There are stupid judges and there are smart judges. This is another reason why a bunch of things are going to end up in the Supreme Court, because you’re going to get inconsistent rulings from lower courts who are frightened of losing their position, who are frightened of being targeted by the left, who are themselves malign or bad people who just want to give the election to Biden.
There will be some people who are the same way for Trump. I’m not going to say that there’s not bad people on both sides, but you’re going to get a bunch of inconsistent rulings from the lower courts. Then it’s going to get appealed to higher legal bodies because it’s much more difficult to pull fast ones in appellate courts.
I would imagine that a good number of them are going to end up in the Supreme Court, not least of all the fact that this Philadelphia judge, the GOP went to him.
This just happened recently, but this Philadelphia judge denied the Republicans, I think it was a motion for injunction, because they were let into the pre-canvassing place, but they still couldn’t see the ballots. They were being prevented from watching the ballots, which, as we’ve established, is the only important thing.
The guy was like, “Well, you’re let in, so what do you care?”
“Well, because we can’t see the ballots, man. I mean, that’s the whole point of us being there.”
Then you have this Philadelphia sheriff who refuses to follow the court’s order to let people in the canvassing locations.
I just think that there’s been so many abuses by so many government officials at this point that we’re going to need the input of some impartial arbiters in the form of the American appellate, the 3rd Circuit, appellate courts, and the United States Supreme Court.
Del Guidice: Well, lastly, Tom, this whole conversation in essence has been about potential fraud, but just to address it head-on, I know there are many voters throughout the country now who are concerned about fraud and how ballots are being counted, what’s going on in these canvasing areas.
Since you were there, I mean, do you have concerns about this election resulting in potentially being illegitimate or significant fraud occurring?
Ranieri: I’m deeply concerned that there is a pattern of widespread fraud and election abuse in Pennsylvania, which could have resulted in hundreds of thousands of ballots being improperly counted, basically hundreds of thousands of invalid ballots being counted as though they were valid.
Now, whether or not that means Biden gets those votes or Trump gets those votes, I don’t know. I mean, because they’re trying to hide it, I would say it’s probably Biden because they’re Democrats, but again, that would be supposition. I’m not certain about that. The only thing I know is I have a very low level of confidence in the integrity and credibility of the Pennsylvania voting results.
Del Guidice: Well, Tom, thank you so much for making time to speak with us today and to share all your eyewitness accounts of what you’ve been observing in Pennsylvania. It’s been great having you with us.
Ranieri: Thank you so much. I’ll be honest with you, I was worried that no one would listen to me. I was so upset by this that I tried to talk to several people and a lot of people just didn’t seem to think it was important. I don’t understand why.
But I thank you for taking the time to listen to me and for caring about what I saw because I felt so, I mean, honestly, I felt really alone. Now I feel much less alone. I’m grateful to you for that.
Del Guidice: Well, thanks for being with us.
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Rachel del Guidice is a congressional reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program