Even though many American voters knew the presidential campaign push would likely not end on Election Day, most Americans might not have expected the sheer number of legal battles the Republican Party and its representatives have waged across the country as ballots continue to be counted. President Trump himself has been forecasting for weeks now his intent to bring the result of the election to the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, Republicans have been filing election lawsuits in state court after state court, mostly in an attempt to stop valid ballots from being counted. The strategy has continued through and even past Nov. 3; on Wednesday afternoon, the Trump campaign announced they’d be filing yet another lawsuit — this time in Michigan — to boost their baseless claims of fraudulent voting, after the state appeared to be tilting in Democratic nominee Joe Biden's favor.
To be clear, the GOP-backed string of lawsuits are designed to do one thing only: give a sheen of credibility to the president’s months of completely unsubstantiated complaints and tweets about voter fraud conspiracies against him. Without any actual proof of fraud, though, and with the count in the Electoral College appearing to slip away, the next best option for the Trump campaign is to very publicly act like they’re simply doing their due diligence and making sure every valid vote is counted while nefarious fraudulent ones are tossed.
Again: This is completely unnecessary. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and it's telling that the Trump team is pushing recounts or lawsuits in states where Biden is ahead, but is advocating that every ballot be counted in states where the call is less clear. But Republicans have been flooding the courts anyway. We’ve listed a few key battles below from the last two months, organized by state and topic at issue, though I’m sure we’ll see additional lawsuits over the next week at least.
Deadline for fixing incorrect ballots: In September, a judge in Arizona ruled that voters who accidentally forgot to sign their ballots would have five days after the election to fix the mistake. The Republicans appealed the decision, and a federal appeals court ruled in their favor, overturning the five-day grace period.
Absentee ballot deadline: The Republican National Committee and the Georgia Republican Party helped push a lawsuit that set the state’s absentee ballot return deadline for 7 p.m. on Election Day. The ruling overturned an original ruling that would’ve allowed mail-in ballots to be accepted if they were postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrived by Nov. 6.
Halting vote count: The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday evening seeking to stop the vote count in Georgia in a dozen counties. The suit was filed alongside the Georgia Republican Party, and per AP alleges that a Republican observer had witnessed a poll worker improperly add ballots to the pile to be tabulated. A judge dismissed the suit Thursday morning.
Absentee ballot deadline: Republicans petitioned the Michigan Court of Appeals to establish an Election Day deadline for all ballots. The judge ruled in their favor, reversing a previous decision that allowed ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 3 to be counted as long as they were received within 14 days.
Halting vote count: The Trump campaign released a press release on Nov. 4, the day after Election Day, saying they would be filing a lawsuit in Michigan to halt the ballot-counting process, claiming that campaign representatives haven’t been granted proper access to observe and monitor the process. The announcement came nearly simultaneously to when major networks started calling the state for Biden. A judge dismissed the lawsuit Thursday.
Poll observers: A suit filed one week after polls closed in Michigan by the Trump campaign alleges Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as well as the whole of Wayne County, which contains the city of Detroit, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by not allowing Republican poll watched to observe certain ballot counts alongside their Democratic counterparts.
Absentee ballot deadline: A Republican-backed lawsuit filed in Minnesota attempted to challenge the state’s decision to count absentee ballots up to a week after Election Day. The lawsuit originally failed, but Republicans appealed the ruling. This time, the judge ruled against Minnesota’s elected officials and enacted an Election Day deadline for all ballots. The ruling was given on Oct. 29, meaning that voters across the state had to adjust with just five days' notice in order to ensure their votes were counted.
Halting vote count: The Trump campaign and the Nevada Republican Party filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt early vote counting in Clark County, Nevada. The lawsuit tried to call into question the legitimacy of the county’s signature-matching computer software, with the campaign requesting permission to install their own cameras to monitor the ballot-counting process. The judge threw the case out. According to CNN, 70% of the Nevada’s voters live in Clark County.
Absentee ballot deadline: Republicans filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the state’s decision to allow mail-in ballots to be counted up to nine days after Election Day. The legal fight went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the justices declining to overturn a lower court's ruling and thus leaving in place North Carolina’s Nov. 12 deadline.
Absentee ballot deadline: Republicans filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court challenging the state’s decision to accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 6. While the high court upheld the extended deadline, the ruling instructed officials to separate ballots received by Election Day and those received after in case of future litigation.
Secrecy envelopes: Republicans petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to render any mail-in ballots that don’t include the necessary secrecy sleeve (an extra envelope included in the absentee ballot packages) invalid, even if the actual ballot is filled out correctly. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed, saying so-called "naked" ballots should be tossed — despite the possibility of confusing voters who had up until that point, been told their ballots would be counted regardless.
Drop boxes: The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit attempting to limit the use of drop boxes for voters to cast their ballots, complaining that they’re improperly monitored and unsecure. A judge threw out the case.
Correcting ballot errors: A Republican-backed lawsuit filed on Election Day claimed that a portion of mail-in ballots cast in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, should be invalidated. They argued that election officials who reviewed ballots for mistakes before Election Day and gave voters a chance to correct their ballots, officials had violated the state’s voting laws that say absentee ballots can't be counted until Election Day. The judge hasn’t ruled on the case yet.
Provisional ballots: Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly filed a lawsuit on Election Day attempting to prevent voters from using provisional ballots in the event that their mail-in ballots were disqualified. No ruling has been given on this case yet.
Mail-in ballots: The Trump campaign's lawsuit, filed a week after polls closed in Pennsylvania, alleges that both Allegheny County and Philadelphia processed thousands of ballots without their having been observed by representatives from each party and campaign. The 85-page suit also claims mail-in ballots in "Democratic-heavy" counties that would have been invalidated due to technical errors such as missing signatures were illegally identified and offered back to voters for correction. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has denied the allegations.
Absentee ballot deadline: Texas Republicans filed a lawsuit attempting to invalidate votes that were cast using an expanded curbside and drive-through voting process in Harris County, Texas, which is home to the city of Houston and is majority Democratic. If the lawsuit were successful, it would’ve disqualified more than 100,000 votes, but a judge dismissed it.
In the end, it’s worth noting that several of the legal fights listed involve the GOP working to overturn or prevent extended the deadline for officials to accept mail-in ballots. On a regular day under regular conditions, there are all sorts of reasons why a piece of mail might be delayed — let alone in light of Republicans’ consistent assault on the U.S. Postal Service this year. And regardless, as long as voters mail and postmark their ballots by the Election Day, it means that they voted on Election Day. So why the GOP push to disenfranchise a whole bunch of voters? (The answer, of course, is that mail-in votes tend to lean heavily Democratic.)
None of this is particularly surprising, though, and Biden’s campaign seems fully prepared for whatever long legal fight the Republican Party might be gearing up for. According to The Daily Beast, the Biden campaign had roughly 4,000 lawyers in Florida waiting in the wings ahead of the election, as well as lawyers who'd worked under the Obama administration stationed all around the country in anticipation of court battles in the coming weeks. If defending the validity of each ballot cast this record-breaking election requires a fight, it’s good to know Biden’s camp is up for it.
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