Where the Trump campaign and Republicans’ election-related lawsuits stand

Washington — As President-elect Joe Biden lays the groundwork for his transition to the presidency, President Trump still refuses to acknowledge his defeat and is instead looking to the courts to rescue his chances for a second term in the White House, though in most cases unsuccessfully.

Since Election Day, the number of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and Republican voters in an effort to halt the certification of election results has swelled to more than a dozen, with the legal battles focused on a handful of key battleground states where Mr. Trump lost. The president continues to claim the cases provide him a pathway to victory over Mr. Biden, but they involve too few ballots for him to close the president-elect’s 5.5 million-vote lead or change the outcome of a state’s race. Mr. Biden secured 306 electoral votes to Mr. Trump’s 232.

Harvard Law School professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos told CBSN in an interview Monday, “There have been something like 30 or 40 of these lawsuits filed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and so on. To this point, dozens of defeats have piled up for the Trump campaign.”

On Monday, four different cases brought by voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia who sought to exclude some counties from being included in state certification of the election were voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs. All four voter groups were represented by conservative elections lawyer James Bopp, Jr., who declined to say why the cases were dismissed. He told the Detroit Free Press in an email, “Sorry because of atty. client privilege and because I do not telegraph my next moves, I cannot comment.” The cases were all dismissed without prejudice, so they may be revised and refiled.

The increasingly steep climb to victory hasn’t stopped Mr. Trump from making unsubstantiated assertions that he won the election or claiming it was rigged against him, despite the absence of any evidence to support his allegations. Instead, the president has beefed up his legal team, spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani, and suggested more lawsuits are coming.


The Trump campaign’s legal path

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Here is a look at the current legal fights being waged by the president and Republicans in the courts, and where they each stand.

Georgia 

In re: enforcement of election laws, Superior Court of Chatham County

The Trump campaign alleged the proper chain of custody for absentee ballots was not followed and asked the court to order ballots received after the state’s Election Day deadline to be collected and separated, and stop the counting of absentee ballots

Result: Judge James Bass dismissed the lawsuit due to lack of evidence that the ballots were received after the Election Day deadline.

L. Lin Wood v. Raffensperger, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

The lawsuit brought by Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood challenges the inclusion of absentee ballots in Georgia and seeks an order prohibiting the state from certifying the results of the general election and certifying the results that include the tabulation of absentee ballots.

Result: Judge Steven Grimberg, appointed to the federal bench by Mr. Trump, denied the request to block certification of election results, saying during a hearing Thursday that to do so “at literally the 11th hour would breed confusion and potential disenfranchisement that I find has no basis in fact or in law.”

Brooks v. Mahoney, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia

The case brought by four voters sought to exclude from the state’s certification the election results from eight counties, arguing that ballots in those counties were illegally cast and should be invalidated.

Result: The four voters voluntarily dismissed the case Monday.

Michigan

Johnson v. Benson, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

Two Michigan voters asked the court to block the state from certifying the election results and declaring winners in the general election until an independent audit is performed. They requested a special master be appointed to investigate all claims of voter fraud in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, and certify the legality of all absentee ballots cast.

Result: The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.

Bally v. Whitmer, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

Four voters in Michigan claimed illegal votes were cast in the general election in Wayne, Washtenaw and Ingham Counties, which would require the results in those counties to be invalidated. The voters asked the court to exclude the results from those three counties from the state’s certification.

Result: The four voters voluntarily dismissed their case Monday.

Trump v. Benson, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

Alleging ineligible ballots were cast in the general election, the Trump campaign asked the court to block the state and the Wayne County canvassing boards from certifying its election results.

Result: The Trump campaign voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit.

Trump v. Benson, Michigan Court of Claims

The Trump campaign and a Republican election challenger claimed absentee voter counting boards were being conducted without inspectors from each party present. The campaign asked the court to stop the counting and processing of absentee ballots until election inspectors from each party were present.

Result: Judge Cynthia Stephens denied the Trump campaign’s request to halt the ballot-counting process.

Costantino v. Detroit, Wayne County Circuit Court

Two Michigan voters alleged there were numerous instances of fraud and misconduct in Wayne County and asked the court to block the certification of Michigan’s election results pending an investigation. They also called for an independent audit of the general election and asked the judge to void the results of the November 3 election and order a new election be held.

Result: Judge Timothy Kenny raised issues with affidavits that allege fraud, writing in an order Friday the election challengers who claimed misconduct did not have a full understanding of the absent ballot tabulation process. Their interpretation of events, he said, “is incorrect and not credible.” As a result, Kenny denied their requests. The plaintiffs asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to review the order.

On Monday, a Michigan Court of Appeals judge denied the request for review “for failure to persuade the Court of the existence of manifest error requiring reversal and warranting peremptory relief without argument or formal submission.”

Nevada

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

A Nevada voter, two congressional candidates and a poll observer claimed that in Clark County, there were lax procedures for authenticating ballots and ineligible people were voting. The group, with the backing of the Trump campaign, asked the judge to order the county to stop using its signature-verification software system.

Result: A federal judge denied their request.

Law v. Whitmer, First Judicial District Court 

Filed November 17 by the Trump campaign on behalf of six Nevada residents who are candidates for presidential electors for Mr. Trump, the lawsuit claims there were “substantial irregularities, improprieties and fraud” in the general election, including as a result of Clark County’s use of signature verification voting machines at issue in the other lawsuit in federal court. The Trump campaign also claims Clark County failed to grant “meaningful observation opportunities” to the public for the processing of mail-in ballots. The Republicans are asking the court to either declare Mr. Trump the winner of the election in Nevada or block the state from certifying electors.

Result: Pending

Pennsylvania 

Trump v. Boockvar, U.S. District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania

An amended complaint from the Trump campaign drops claims it was denied meaningful access to observe and monitor the electoral process through its poll watchers, but alleges disparate treatment of mail-in voters among different counties, where in blue counties they had opportunities to fix their ballots. The campaign estimates more than 680,000 ballots were processed in two Pennsylvania counties, Allegheny and Philadelphia, “when no observation was allowed” and is seeking to block Boockvar from certifying the results of the election.

During a hearing Tuesday, Rudy Giuliani, arguing on behalf of the Trump campaign, made sweeping claims about mail-in voting, claiming “widespread, nationwide voter fraud, of which this is a part.” Mark Aronchick, who argued on behalf of some county election boards, lambasted Giuliani, calling his arguments “disgraceful.”

Result: The campaign filed a second amended complaint “to restore claims which were inadvertently deleted from their amended complaint, and to add claims based on newly learned facts,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers said in a filing with the court. The brief filed on November 21 rehashed claims the campaign appeared to abandon earlier in the week.  

Trump and RNC v. Boockvar, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

At issue in the dispute is a deadline, extended by the secretary of state, for mail-in voters to verify proof of identification. The Trump campaign sought to block counties from allowing mail-in voters from providing missing proof of identification for ballots received between November 4 and November 6, which were segregated by elections officials as part of another pending dispute.

Result: Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt blocked counties from counting segregated ballots in their official tallies.

Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, U.S. Supreme Court

Republicans asked the Supreme Court to review a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that allowed election officials to receive and count ballots received up to three days after Election Day if they were postmarked by November 3. The Trump campaign and Pennsylvania Republicans believe those ballots, which are being segregated by counties, should be invalidated.

Result: The Supreme Court has not yet taken action in the case, Justice Samuel Alito ordered counties to segregate late-arriving ballots and count them separately in response to an emergency request from Republicans.

Bognet v. Boockvar, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

In a similar dispute to the challenge before the Supreme Court, four registered voters and a congressional candidate filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the extended deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned and counted, alleging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated the Constitution by allowing the late-arriving ballots to be counted. They asked the court to block the county boards of elections from counting ballots received during the deadline extension period.

Result: The 3rd Circuit ruled the individual plaintiffs lack legal standing to challenge the extended deadline.

Trump v. Montgomery County Board of Elections, Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County

The Trump campaign is seeking to toss out roughly 600 mail-in ballots and asked the state court to reverse a decision by the Montgomery County elections board denying their objection to counting mail-in ballots for which outer declaration envelopes were missing information.

Result: Judge Richard Haaz denied the Trump campaign’s request to review the board’s decision and toss out ballots.

Trump v. Bucks County Board of Elections, Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County

As in Montgomery County, the Trump campaign asked the court to review a decision by the county elections board denying their objection to the counting of certain ballots that allegedly suffered from deficiencies. The campaign is seeking to toss out 2,175 ballots with missing information, as well as another 76 either with unsealed privacy envelopes or with markings.

Result: A hearing has been scheduled.

Pirkle v. Wolf, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Four Pennsylvania voters attempted to exclude presidential election results from Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware and Allegheny Counties, and block state officials from certifying the election results, alleging illegal votes were cast in those counties.

Result: The voters who brought the case voluntarily dismissed it Monday.

In re: Canvass of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots of November 3, 2020 General Election, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County

The Trump campaign sought a review of a decision by the Philadelphia County Board of Elections to count five different categories of mail-in ballots. The Trump campaign wanted the court to invalidate 8,329 ballots because the voter failed to include certain handwritten information on the ballot-return envelope.

Result: The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ruled against the Trump campaign, but the campaign appealed to the Commonwealth Court. Now, the Philadelphia Board of Elections is asking for the dispute to be transferred to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In re. Canvassing Observation, Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The dispute brought by the Trump campaign involves the Philadelphia County Board of Elections’ pre-canvassing and canvassing of mail-in and absentee ballots at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The Trump campaign challenged the location where its election observers could watch the canvassing process, arguing they were too far to see individual markings on secrecy envelopes or determine whether they were properly completed.

Result: The trial court denied the Trump campaign’s request for the county board to modify its work area for closer observation of the ongoing ballot canvassing, but Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon of the Commonwealth Court sided with the campaign and said observers should be allowed within 6 feet of the canvassing process. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, ruled 5-2 Tuesday against the Trump campaign, finding the board’s regulations governing where observers could stand during the pre-canvassing and canvassing process were “reasonable in that they allowed candidate representatives to observe the board conducting its activities” as dictated by state election code.

Wisconsin

Langenhorst v. Pecore, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

Three Wisconsin voters claimed illegal votes were cast in Milwaukee, Dane and Menominee Counties and asked for results from those counties to be excluded in the state’s certification.

Result: The GOP voters voluntarily dropped the case Monday.

Adam Brewster contributed reporting.


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