In a particularly litigious presidential campaign, one legal fight may have saved President-elect Joe Biden’s chances of winning Pennsylvania — and the presidency.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a split verdict on Sept. 17, removed Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins from the ballot. That legal challenge was filed on behalf of two Democrats in August by Pittsburgh attorney Clifford Levine, who was representing the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in other cases at the time..
“The concern was that, if you looked at the results in 2016, the Green Party candidate got more votes than the margin between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton," Levine said Monday. “There was obviously a concern that a third party candidate may effectively dilute the focus that we thought was important, that it be a race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.”
Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2016 nominee won 49,941 votes in Pennsylvania in 2016, as Clinton fell to Trump by 44,292, a margin of just 0.7%.
Biden holds 45,711 more votes that Trump in the state, as of Monday. Pennsylvania pushed Biden to an Electoral College win Saturday as media outlets across the country called the race in his favor.
The Green Party’s nominees remained on the ball in three other statewide races, and they all collected votes far beyond the presidential margin. Richard Weiss, running for attorney general, had more than 68,000 votes. Olivia Faison, running for auditor general, had more than 76,009 votes. Timothy Runkle, running for treasurer, had more than 79,000 votes.
Larry Otter, the attorney who represented the Green Party, said the removal of Hawkins may have forestalled Pennsylvania being called for Biden if the margin was closer. State law requires an automatic recount if a race is decided by 0.5% or less. News outlets didn’t call the race until after Biden’s lead eclipse 0.5% — meaning with the Green Party ticket on the ballot, the race may still be unresolved.
“Obviously the Democratic challenge to the Green Party may have made the difference at the presidential level between and automatic recount and no recount,” Otter said.