2020 Election

Trump’s Election Lawsuits: A State-By-State Guide

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President Donald Trump is gearing up for post-election lawfare after a host of media outlets called the presidential race for Joe Biden on Saturday.

The Washington Free Beacon will track Trump's legal efforts state-by-state and update this story as new information becomes available.

Biden leads in critical battlegrounds like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and it's not clear how Trump might erase those margins by litigation. An initial wave of lawsuits quickly fizzled last week as vote counters around the country tabulated results, though the campaign may ask for recounts and seek court orders establishing procedures for that process.

Arizona

Donald J. Trump for President v. Hobbs in the Superior Court for the State of Arizona:

In Maricopa County, the Trump campaign sued the Arizona secretary of state and a handful of local election officials on Nov. 7 alleging that "potentially thousands" of votes were wrongly rejected by poll workers who failed to follow proper procedures.

Vote machines in Maricopa County will reject votes that include splotches, stray marks, or multiple marks in the same race. The machine will display an alert and eject ballots if it detects such defects. The lawsuit, which includes affidavits from observers and voters, claims that county poll workers overrode those error messages when they showed up on screen instead of instructing voters on how to cast their ballots correctly, thus ensuring those votes wouldn't count.

The plaintiffs want officials to identify any ballot cast in Maricopa County after an error message appeared. Those ballots should be inspected by canvassing boards and counted provided they are legitimate, the plaintiffs say.

The voter and observer complaints attached to the lawsuit revolve around the use of sharpies to mark ballots. Viral internet claims assert that ballots filled out by sharpie can't be counted in Arizona. Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich (R.) looked into the matter and said he's satisfied those concerns are false.

Biden is ahead of Trump by about 15,000 votes in Arizona.

Georgia

In re: enforcement of election laws in the Eastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia:

Trump lawyers filed a lawsuit in deep-blue Chatham County on Nov. 4 after Republican election observers raised concerns that a poll worker comingled about 50 tardy mail-in ballots with legitimate votes. Mail-in votes were due at 7:00 p.m. on Election Day in Georgia. The Trump campaign asked a state court judge for an order requiring officials to segregate tardy ballots from all other votes.

At an emergency hearing, a top election official testified that he inspected each of the 50 contested ballots and confirmed they were received on time. The matter was dismissed shortly thereafter.

"The court finds that there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, thereby making those ballots invalid," Superior Court judge James Bass wrote. "Additionally, there is no evidence that the Chatham County Board of Elections or the Chatham County Board of Registrars has failed to comply with the law."

Biden currently leads Trump by about 12,000 votes in Georgia. Gabriel Sterling, a top elections administrator for the state, vigorously defended Georgia's process in a Nov. 9 press conference.

"We are going to find people who tried to illegally vote. Is it 10,353? Unlikely," Sterling said.

Michigan

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Benson in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan; and Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Benson in the Michigan Court of Claims:

The Trump campaign is litigating two challenges in Michigan. The first is in federal court and mostly concerns the procedures for counting votes at a canvassing center in Detroit. The second is in state court and involves similar claims.

The federal complaint alleges that vote-counters failed to follow proper procedures or engaged in personal misconduct like "intimidating" Republican observers. It includes dozens of affidavits from Republican poll challengers who were on hand at the Detroit canvassing center.

One challenger called Andrew Miller said in an affidavit that he was repeatedly blocked from observing a ballot duplication process, in which vote-counters faithfully transcribe the marks on a ballot rejected by a machine onto a fresh ballot. Under Michigan law, this process must be conducted by a bipartisan team. Miller also said poll-workers failed to properly document his challenges.

Another, Kathleen Daavettila, is a pregnant women who voluntarily left the canvassing because the alleged hostility of vote-counters and Democratic observers made her fear for her safety.

The lawsuit asks for an order that delays certification of the results, grants Republicans access to surveillance video of ballot drop boxes, and directs Detroit vote-counters to exclude fraudulent votes, among other things.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Junker.

Immediately after the election, the Trump team also asked a state court in Michigan to stop the tabulation of absentee ballots across the state. In an emergency filing, the campaign alleged that a GOP observer had been kept away from an absentee vote counting site in Oakland County and requested access to surveillance video of so-called ballot drop boxes. They also submitted an affidavit from a Republican attorney who alleged she was told that disqualified ballots were being wrongfully "cured" by canvassers.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens tossed the cases for several reasons. Stephens said the suit had come too late, that the campaign was suing the wrong defendants, and that it lacked sufficient evidence for its claims. Trump lawyers are appealing the decision.

Biden leads Trump by about 150,000 votes in the state.

Update 11/11/20, 3:45 p.m: This section was updated to include the federal complaint.

Nevada 

Stokke v. Cegavske in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada:

As in other states, GOP lawyers in Nevada raised procedural concerns about observer access and scrutiny of absentee ballots in Clark County, where about 70 percent of Nevada voters reside.

A lawsuit filed in federal court sought to immediately halt the use of an electronic signature-verification software in favor of a manual review of mail-in ballots. The GOP plaintiffs said use of that software is not permitted under state law. They also claimed the Nevada balloting was beset by "irregularities," citing  a woman who believes another person voted fraudulently in her place and a Republican observer who was asked to leave the Clark County canvassing center on election night.

U.S. District judge Andrew Gordon denied the GOP request during a hearing on Nov. 6. Gordon noted that the dispute over Clark County's verification software is being litigated at the Supreme Court of Nevada. Though he seemed to think the software was compatible with Nevada's election rules, he said the issue arises under state law and is best resolved in state court.

As to the other issues, the Nevada voter who feared fraud seemed to retreat from her claim by declining opportunities to submit an affidavit and cast a provisional ballot. And election officials stressed that GOP observers were on hand continuously at the Clark County canvass, even if one was asked to leave. The observer who was removed, Fox News commentator Chris Prudhome, violated the rules by using a camera in a part of the canvassing center where filming is not permitted, according to state lawyers.

"The plaintiffs have not come to the court at this point with sufficient legal showing and sufficient evidentiary basis," Gordon said during Friday's hearing.

"We've had answers for every allegation that's been brought forward," Clark County registrar Joseph Gloria said of Republican complaints at a Nov. 9 press conference.

The state Supreme Court asked Nevada Republicans and state officials to file legal papers on the signature-matching controversy by Nov. 9. Further action is forthcoming. Tens of thousands of mail-in votes could be at stake.

Biden is ahead of Trump in Nevada by about 35,000 votes. The deadline to finish the Nevada canvass is Nov. 16.

Pennsylvania

Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Kathy Boockvar in the Supreme Court; Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Kathy Boockvar in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and In re: canvassing observation in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Trump campaign is litigating a multi-front effort in the Keystone State.

First, the campaign is seeking to take over a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court involving the validity of mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day. The state Supreme Court said any mail-in ballot that arrived by Friday Nov. 6 should be counted. The Trump campaign and Pennsylvania Republicans say the deadline set by the state legislature—8 p.m. on Election Day—ought to be the cutoff.

Election officials are keeping those ballots segregated while the legal battle rages. There are about 10,000 ballots at stake, which would not be decisive to the outcome in Pennsylvania given the size of Biden’s lead, so the justices may choose to skirt the case.

Another Trump lawsuit in federal court seeks to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania. The suit alleges that state officials violated the Constitution by creating a two-tiered voting system: While in-person voting was transparent and verifiable, mail-in voting was "cloaked in darkness" because canvassers kept Republican observers at a distance or arbitrarily enforced rules governing mail-in ballots.

Much like the campaign’s Michigan lawsuit, the complaint here is that Republican observers were not able to scrutinize all aspects of the mail-in vote tabulating process in places such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and State College.

Trump lawyers have previously conceded in federal court that GOP observers were continuously on hand at the Philadelphia canvassing center. But the campaign objects that its poll-watchers were kept at a remove from the canvassers. As a result, they couldn’t see much and had no way of knowing if the rules were being observed, such as the requirement that mail-in ballots arrive in a second "secrecy" envelope.

They also say officials in deep-blue counties wrongfully gave voters a chance to "cure" their mail-in ballots if they were submitted with a deficiency. Voters in red counties were given no such chance, they argue, and state law does not allow individuals to correct mistakes on mail-in ballots once submitted.

The case has been fast-tracked and oral argument is set for Nov. 17 in Williamsport, Pa.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear a similar dispute involving observer access in Philadelphia. The Trump campaign obtained an emergency order from a lower court granting greater access for its observers on Nov. 5.

Finally, the campaign sued Pennsylvania secretary of state Kathy Boockvar after she gave voters until Nov. 12 to confirm their identities if mail-in ballots were returned without proper proof of identification. The original deadline was Nov. 9.

Pennsylvania Republicans are litigating several other controversies with which the president's campaign is not involved.

Update 11/12/20, 2:30 pm: This section has been updated to reflect ongoing developments in Pennsylvania.