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Trump campaign launches new tactic in legal fight to contest election results
4 min read.Updated: 10 Nov 2020, 10:28 AM ISTRebecca Davis O’brien, The Wall Street Journal
Lawsuits ask judges to stop Michigan and Pennsylvania from certifying election results due to claims of fraud and limits on poll observers
The Trump campaign and its allies unveiled a new tactic to contest election vote counts, suing to stop state officials from finalizing results due to fraud allegations in Michigan and limits imposed on poll observers in Pennsylvania.
Judges likely would be reluctant to take the rare step of blocking final vote counts without seeing substantial evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to change the election, legal analysts said.
President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner by the Associated Press in Michigan and Pennsylvania by margins that election-law experts say would be difficult to overcome in court. In Michigan, Mr. Biden’s lead was 146,000 votes with 99% counted, and in Pennsylvania it was over 45,000 votes with 99% counted.
The Trump campaign filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania, and a conservative legal group said it filed a state lawsuit in Michigan, calling on judges to block state officials from certifying the election results.
The Trump campaign’s Pennsylvania lawsuit alleges that poll observers were kept too far away from vote counters, and that voters in Republican- and Democratic-majority counties received different treatment during the election, in potential violation of the Constitution. The suit asks a judge to require Pennsylvania officials to invalidate ballots in cases where voters were notified and allowed to fix problems.
Philadelphia election officials said they had set up an area where candidates and party representatives could view the room without impeding the vote-processing operation. State election officials have said they followed all laws.
In Michigan, the Great Lakes Justice Center’s suit on behalf of two state residents alleges that Detroit elections officials counted ineligible absentee ballots and improperly excluded observers from the ballot-counting process. The lawsuit also contains the allegations of a Detroit elections employee who said she observed city employees coaching voters to cast ballots for Mr. Biden in the weeks before the election.
The Detroit city clerk—who oversees the city’s elections process—couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the Michigan secretary of state didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Michigan officials have defended and praised the state’s voting system, which handled record turnout and more than 3.1 million absentee ballots statewide.
Federal law requires a state’s presidential electors to vote on Dec. 14, but each state has its own legal deadline for certifying the results. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, it is Nov. 23 under most circumstances.
In order for a state court judge to consider delaying the certification, the Trump campaign “would have to come forward with evidence of fraud that would change the election," said Jack Young, who served as former Democratic Vice President Al Gore’s recount counsel in the 2000 presidential election, when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a recount in Florida, making George W. Bush the winner.
Alleged fraud that affects fewer votes than the difference between the two candidates is a nonstarter, said Barry Richard, the lead counsel to former President Bush in 2000.
“The law on fraud is very simple," he said. “You walk into court and have to bring in evidence that there was fraud or voting irregularities, and you must show that it could change the election."
Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors on Monday to investigate election fraud “if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State." The memo broke with past Justice Department policy, which discouraged investigations before results are certified.
The Trump campaign’s poll-observer complaints are echoed in a state lawsuit that Pennsylvania’s highest court said Monday it would hear. The announcement by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a win for Philadelphia election officials, who had appealed a lower-court ruling in favor of the Trump campaign.
On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also said its order shouldn’t be viewed as putting a stop to the continuing processing and counting of ballots.
Separately, a group of 10 Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief on Monday supporting Pennsylvania Republicans in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the state’s three-day extension for receiving mail-in ballots.
The brief, led by the office of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, argued that a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the state’s ballot-receipt period beyond its normal Election Day deadline encroached on the authority of the state Legislature. The state AGs also argued that the three-day extension exacerbated the risk of mail-in ballot fraud.
The high court hasn’t said whether it will hear the Pennsylvania case, nor has it decided whether to grant the Trump campaign’s request to intervene in the litigation.
Justice Samuel Alito instructed Pennsylvania counties to comply with a state order to segregate all ballots received after Nov. 3.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text