GOSHEN – A native of Goshener is knee deep in legal conflict over postal ballot papers from the presidential election and plays a frontline role against the challenges of the Trump campaign and supporters.
Jacob Shelly is part of a group of attorneys for the Pennsylvania-based law firm Perkins Coie as several cases are or have been discussed in state and federal courts. He spoke about his experience on Thursday, the same day a judge denied a Trump campaign push to cast nearly 2,200 postal ballot papers in Bucks County.
This case is one of several in the state Shelly was involved in last month, all related to the November 3rd election. The experience was “surreal” and positive as he generally fulfilled the ambitions of his childhood.
“It’s very exciting. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was an eighth grader in Goshen Middle School, ”Shelly said.
“I believe the point of elections in a democracy is not to test whether each person is a legal expert on what date an envelope is noted,” he said in a follow-up email. “It is to ensure that our leaders are chosen by the people. That’s why I work to get Pennsylvania voters, whether Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, to count their votes. “
Shelly, one of around 60 attorneys in the firm’s political rights group, was essentially “extradited” after election day. He said that night that his boss had advised him and others to pack a travel bag in case there were any legal disputes during the ballot. Not long after that, he said he left his home and family near Washington, DC and has lived in a Pennsylvania hotel ever since.
Shellys had to work fast and put long hours to cope with the workload amid a flurry of new cases, new records, and court decisions. He said he thought he was counting on a finger or two the number of nights he went to bed before 2am
“It’s really around the clock work right now,” Shelly said. “It was a whirlwind of work.”
The company represents the Democratic National Committee in various election-related cases of the state. On Thursday night, Shelly announced the victory as a judge in a Bucks County court that opposed the Trump campaign to find out how envelopes were filled.
Campaigning and other Republican petitioners tried to appeal the Bucks County Election Board’s decision not to reject 2,177 postal ballots. They claimed the ballot papers were in violation of electoral law because the envelopes did not contain information such as handwritten names, dates or full addresses because about 70 had privacy envelopes that were not properly sealed. After a hearing on Tuesday, the judge ruled to dismiss the challenge on the grounds that the flaws on the envelopes were technical and not legal, according to the verdict.
“The court stated that there is no legal requirement for voters to write their name or address on the outer envelope… and a voter cannot be disenfranchised because the adhesive on either of the two layers of envelope containing the ballot paper is not sticky is enough to remain fully sealed, “Shelly said in an email following the decision.
The judge on the case found that the decision was subject to time restrictions to resolve the case in order for the votes to be confirmed. He also pointed out the challenge, which was never specifically identified as “fraud, misconduct or inappropriateness” on the ballot papers.
In addition, Shelly was involved in a federal case filed in October by a Republican Congressional candidate and four voters, challenging a decision to allow a three-day extension of the deadline for receiving and counting postal ballot papers. A federal appeals court upheld the decision of a district court to reject a motion to stop counting the ballots received during the extension of the deadline.
Shelly said he was also implicated in a case that went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the form of the Trump campaign that challenged five lower court decisions on postal ballot envelope techniques.
Shelly’s interest in political law grew around the age of 13 when he said he was intrigued by the legal issues that arose from the 2000 presidential election. After graduating from Goshen High School, Shelly earned his bachelor’s degree from American University in Washington, DC. a masters degree from Harvard University; and his law degree from Stamford University.
He credited his parents, educators, church, and friends for disagreeing with his political views for helping shape his path to a legal career focused on voting rights.
“My parents… taught me from a young age that political participation is an important way to achieve justice and dignity for everything that is central to our Christian faith. I have also benefited from attending a church that has strengthened these values, “Shelly said in an email. “And I benefited from friends who often disagreed with me on politics but spoke to me about controversial issues in a way that helped me better understand and articulate what I believed myself.”
Prior to Perkins Coie, Shelly worked for the Congressional Research Service, where he advised members of Congress on constitutional and franchise issues. He said he joined the law firm in August, about three months before election day.
Confident that the Trump campaign’s legal challenges on the matter will stall, Shelly said the team lost all but one of the 32 cases submitted. He noted that campaign lawyers admitted in court that the ballots they challenged were cast by legitimate voters on time and without fraud.