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Election 2020: Trump’s lawsuits are getting mixed results

  • President’s campaign suffered legal defeats in Michigan and Georgia but won victories in Pennsylvania, while opening a new front in Nevada

The Trump campaign intensified its legal efforts across battleground states on Thursday, winning a ruling related to election observers in Pennsylvania, suffering losses in Michigan and Georgia and backing a lawsuit over alleged irregularities in Nevada.

Taken together, the lawsuits amounted to an aggressive effort to highlight alleged anomalies or other perceived problems that could affect vote counts before a final presidential winner is declared.

The flurry of challenges ranged across states where Democrat Joe Biden either held a lead over President Trump or was improving his position with late-counted absentee ballots. National Republicans and Democrats have deployed attorneys to push or deflect legal challenges in one of the most litigated elections in modern history.

Mr. Trump suffered a setback Thursday in Michigan, when a judge denied his campaign’s effort to halt the counting of absentee ballots there, in part because the lawsuit was brought against the wrong government officials and was filed too late: All the state’s votes have been counted. Mr. Biden holds a 160,000 vote lead in Michigan, where the Associated Press called the race for him.

In Georgia, a state judge dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit that questioned whether late-arriving absentee ballots in Chatham County were being included in the vote count. The judge said there was no evidence that invalid ballots were counted or that local elections officials had failed to comply with the law. Mr. Biden has made gains as Georgia officials counted ballots, closing to within 13,000 votes by Thursday afternoon.

It wasn’t known if the Trump campaign planned to appeal.

A Pennsylvania appeals court ruled Thursday that poll observers must be allowed to closely observe the vote-counting process.

The Trump campaign had argued one of its lawyers couldn’t view the writing on ballots in Philadelphia on Election Day because he was too far away. Election officials have said they acted properly and asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear its appeal of that case.

Later Thursday afternoon, the Trump campaign filed a federal lawsuit accusing Philadelphia officials of blocking its poll watchers and violating the judge’s order.

After a hearing Thursday evening, the parties came to an agreement to allow equal access to the counting area, which had barricades to enforce social distancing. The judge dismissed the suit.

Also on Thursday, a Pennsylvania judge ordered local election officials to set aside certain mail-in ballots of first-time voters who were permitted to provide proof of identification if they had previously neglected to do so. That ruling is a temporary win for the Trump campaign, which had alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that election officials were wrongly allowing some first-time voters to provide their missing proof of identification after Nov. 9.

In Nevada, whose six electoral votes could push Mr. Biden over the threshold of 270, Mr. Trump’s campaign announced plans Thursday morning to file a new lawsuit alleging that the rise of mail-in ballots cast this year led to votes being illegally counted from people who are dead or don’t meet residency requirements.

The Republican-backed lawsuit, filed late Thursday in federal court in Nevada without naming the Trump campaign as a plaintiff, alleged that more than 3,000 ballots in Clark County were cast on behalf of ineligible voters, including some who were deceased. The six-page complaint, brought by two individuals with alleged grievances and two congressional candidates, offered few specifics.

The suit also raised problems with a machine used to verify signatures and the public’s access to the counting process, two areas of complaint that had already been rejected in a state-court lawsuit.

Separately, attorneys for the Trump campaign sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr detailing what they said were 3,062 individuals who allegedly voted by mail fraudulently. The identified voters appear to have left the state, the letter said, based on a search of a national change-of-address database.

Mr. Biden led Nevada Thursday evening by about 11,000 votes. Most remaining ballots left to count are from Clark County, where he is expected to make gains.

“All of the recent Biden claimed States will be legally challenged by us for Voter Fraud and State Election Fraud," Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday, without offering any evidence of fraud. “STOP THE COUNTING!" Mr. Trump said in a different tweet.

Most of the Trump campaign challenges are procedural and have limited impact, even if a court were to hand the campaign a legal victory, said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. For instance, the campaign had a legitimate right to observe the ballot-counting process, but Thursday’s agreement doesn’t change any votes.

Potentially more substantive allegations like those in Nevada could affect a consequential number of ballots, said Mr. Turley, if the campaign can offer evidence. “You can’t just dismiss it," he said. “This could still result in some serious litigation."

A top Biden adviser, Bob Bauer, said legal challenges mounted by the Trump campaign were without merit and aimed to halt the counting of votes.

“They are intended to give the Trump campaign the opportunity to argue that the vote count should stop. It’s not going to stop," Mr. Bauer said.

“I wouldn’t call it a strategy. There isn’t any legal basis for anything I’ve seen so far." Barry Richard, an attorney who worked for George W. Bush during the 2000 recount.

In perhaps the most serious postelection challenge, the Trump campaign is seeking the U.S. Supreme Court’s permission to join a pending appeal filed by Pennsylvania Republicans over the state’s extended mail-in ballot deadline. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed officials to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, citing the pandemic and postal delays.

The case could have an immense impact if Pennsylvania’s vote totals end up near a dead heat—and if the outcome of the presidential race turns on the swing state.

The U.S. Supreme Court appeal is focused only on that extended time window, which is still open for ballots postmarked by Nov. 3. The high court had two opportunities to resolve the issue before the election and chose not to intervene, leaving the extended deadline in place.

Three Supreme Court justices have indicated they are open to revisiting the issue after the Election Day. But the issue might not have practical importance.

Kathy Boockvar, the Democratic secretary of the commonwealth in Pennsylvania, told CNN that, based on data provided by counties, she didn’t think that the number of ballots that arrived in the mail after Election Day would be large. “No matter what happens, I don’t think it’s going to be a tremendous impact on this race," she said.

In papers submitted Thursday to the high court, Ms. Boockvar’s office opposed the Trump campaign’s intervention in the ballot-deadline litigation, saying the president waited too long and should have filed his own case.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party took a somewhat different approach. In a separate filing, it said it was premature for the high court to decide whether Mr. Trump’s campaign should be allowed into the litigation, because the court may not even hear the case. But the Democrats also said they didn’t oppose the campaign’s intervention.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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