- President Donald Trump’s campaign and Republican officials have filed a flurry of legal challenges as part of an effort to contest the results of the 2020 election even before the race has been called.
- The campaign filed lawsuits and motions to intervene in cases in a number of battleground states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.
- The Democratic nominee Joe Biden won Michigan and leads Trump in tight races in Arizona and Nevada. Trump holds a narrow lead over Biden in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
- Trump’s campaign has also requested a recount in Wisconsin, which Biden won on Wednesday.
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The 2020 election hasn’t been called yet, but the Trump campaign has already mounted legal challenges in several battleground states as the president trails the Democratic nominee Joe Biden in electoral votes.
Biden currently has 253 electoral college votes, while Trump has 214. The former vice president picked up the upper midwestern battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin earlier this week, and now, all eyes are on Pennsylvania where Trump leads Biden by roughly 64,000 votes but could flip in Biden’s favor once all the ballots are counted.
Faced with the prospect of losing to a man he spent months hammering as corrupt, doddering, and mentally deficient, the president is going on offense, spreading lies and conspiracy theories about a “rigged” election marred by “major fraud” from Democrats.
He’s alternated between demanding some states stop counting ballots, which he doesn’t have the power to do, and saying that others should keep counting, which they were doing anyway. To that end, the Trump campaign has filed several legal challenges in battleground states.
Here’s a list of the lawsuits and where they stand:
- Pennsylvania: The Trump campaign appears to be zeroing in on this state as a legal battleground.
- The campaign and Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit asking a state appeals court to reject the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s announcement that registered voters have until November 12 to provide proof of identity for mail-in ballots. Instead, Republicans believe the deadline should be November 9.
- Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit in federal district court asking a judge to rule that the Philadelphia County Board of Elections must stop counting ballots until GOP campaign observers were present. The judge denied the motion.
- The campaign filed a separate lawsuit asking a state court to allow election watchers to stand a few feet closer to officials as they counted ballots. The campaign won the lawsuit, and filed another suit later Thursday accusing city officials of violating the judge’s order and blocking poll watchers from observing the ballot counting process.
- The Trump campaign filed a motion to intervene in a state court lawsuit from Pennsylvania Republicans disputing the secretary of state’s decision to allow voters to cast provisional ballots in person if their mail ballots were defective.
- The Trump campaign and RNC filed a lawsuit seeking to toss out approximately 600 ballots because they didn’t have secrecy envelopes that are required under state law.
- The campaign filed a motion to intervene in an ongoing Supreme Court case brought by Republicans which centers on the deadline by which Pennsylvania officials are allowed to receive ballots. The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruled that officials can receive ballots up to November 6 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Republicans appealed the decision to the high court, which was deadlocked at 4-4 because Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate, and left the lower court’s ruling in place for now.
- The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit requesting that ballots stop being counted in the state over concerns about signature-matching technology and election observers claiming they weren’t being allowed to watch ballots being processed closely enough. The Nevada Supreme Court denied the request.
- A judge in Chatham County denied the Trump campaign’s request to toss out 53 ballots that a GOP poll watcher said arrived after polls closed at 7 p.m. on November 3. The Washington Post reported that the poll watcher presented no evidence in court that the ballots came in late, and county officials testified that they were received in time.
- A judge on the Michigan Court of Claims on Thursday denied the Trump campaign’s request to stop ballots in the state from being counted. Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed the case because she said litigating the issue didn’t make sense given that ballots in Michigan have more or less been fully counted. Biden leads Trump by about 20,000 votes in the state and is projected to win its 16 electoral votes.
- The Trump campaign joined in a lawsuit brought by two Republicans in Maricopa County claiming that a substantial number of GOP ballots were invalidated because voters used Sharpies to fill in their choices. There is no evidence that using Sharpies leads to issues with scanning ballots, and in fact, officials have said that using Sharpies is preferred. The Post also reported that the Maricopa County attorney’s office said no ballots were rejected, and that if they are, voters have an opportunity to cast another one.
Key cases and court rulings
In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court ruled that election officials can receive until November 6 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Republicans requested an immediate stay from the US Supreme Court that would have blocked the state Supreme Court’s ruling.
But the US Supreme Court was deadlocked at 4-4, which left the lower court’s ruling in place. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito voted to grant Republicans’ request, while Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett declined to participate in the case “because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” the court said in a statement. However, Barrett has not recused herself, which means she could still cast a decisive fifth vote in either direction.
In a similar case brought by Republicans in North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that ballots received up to nine days after November 3 can be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
The decision came after the Trump campaign and Republicans asked in two separate cases for the high court to put back in place a June deadline from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature that would have allowed ballots to be counted only if they were received up to three days — not nine — after Election Day.
Five justices — Roberts, Kavanaugh, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor — ruled against reinstating the June deadline. Gorsuch, Alito, and Thomas dissented, while Barrett did not participate in the North Carolina case.
Republicans notched a victory in a case involving the deadline to receive ballots in Wisconsin, another battleground state in this year’s election. The US Supreme Court ruled against reviving an appeals court decision that would have allowed election officials to receive absentee ballots up to six days after Election Day.
The court’s five conservative justices — Roberts, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito — ruled against reviving the lower court’s ruling, while the three liberals — Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor — dissented.
The Wisconsin case made headlines because of Kavanaugh and Kagan’s dueling opinions in the matter.
Kavanaugh, a Trump-appointed justice who was confirmed to the high court in 2018, wrote in a concurring opinion that all ballots should be received by Election Day.
“Those States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election,” he wrote. “And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”
Kagan fired back in a sharp dissent, taking issue with Kavanaugh’s assertion that the arrival of absentee ballots after Election Day could “flip” the results of the race.
“Justice Kavanaugh alleges that ‘suspicions of impropriety’ will result if ‘absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election,'” she wrote. “But there are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more ‘suspicio[us]’ or ‘improp[er]’ than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process.”
A federal court in Texas and the state’s Supreme Court denied two Republican requests to throw out nearly 130,000 ballots that were cast via drive-thru polling sites in Harris county, one of Texas’ most heavily Democratic areas.
Over the weekend, the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request from Republican candidates and activists to toss the 127,000 drive-thru ballots cast in Harris County. On Monday, US District Judge Andrew Hanen, appointed by President George W. Bush, reached the same conclusion and also denied the second request from GOP candidates and a right-wing radio host.
Hanen ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue and ask that ballots that were legally cast be discounted.