Election 2020

Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin: Here's an Update on Team Trump's Lawsuits and Recounts

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

On Thursday, the campaign to reelect President Donald Trump gave reporters an update on the campaign’s lawsuits and recount requests across the country. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, urged patience and said the campaign has “a solid, comprehensive strategy that is tailored to the conditions on the ground in each state and according to the laws in each state.”

“Over 72 million people now have voted for President Trump, and those Americans deserve to know that this election was free, fair, safe, and secure,” Murtaugh said. He warned against the rush to “instant gratification” in reporting preliminary results that suggest Democrat Joe Biden has won the election, and said that Biden voters also deserve to have the election process scrutinized to root out fraud and abuse.

Murtaugh insisted that media outlets should not ignore “the very real evidence of irregularities” in the election process, including disturbing reports of “stacks of ballots being run through scanners multiple times” and election officials treating voters differently based on what county they live in.

Trump campaign general counsel Matt Morgan ran through the state of play in five of the key swing states.

1. Pennsylvania

Morgan began by noting the campaign’s legal victory in Pennsylvania earlier on Thursday. “The secretary of state continues to play fast and loose with statutory dates and deadlines,” he alleged.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ruled that Pennsylvania Secretary Kathy Boockvar lacked the “statutory authority” to change election law days before the election. Leavitt ordered the county boards of elections not to count any ballots that had been segregated.

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered Pennsylvania election officials to segregate a section of the ballots that came in after 8 p.m. on Election Day.

It remains unclear exactly how many ballots would not be counted for this reason.

Leavitt’s order represented the latest in the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s litigation against Boockvar. The state’s GOP filed the initial lawsuit on July 10, 2020, and it reached the Supreme Court shortly before Election Day. A 4-4 order let the state Supreme Court decision stand, allowing officials to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The Trump campaign asked to join the case on November 4.

According to The Wall Street Journal, about 10,000 ballots arrived during the three days after Election Day, far below Biden’s lead of more than 45,000 votes.

Morgan also referenced a lawsuit the Trump campaign filed against Boockvar on Monday, accusing the secretary and county election officials of violating voters’ rights to equal protection by favoring some mail-in ballots over others and of violating the Constitution by usurping the state legislature’s authority on election law. The lawsuit laid out ten reasons to suspect Pennsylvania’s election results are “irredeemably compromised,” and asked the court to prevent Boockvar from prematurely certifying the results.

Hearings in this case have been scheduled for next week.

Morgan announced that the campaign had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to allow the legal team “time to confirm our well-founded theory that Pennsylvania officials have counted thousands of invalid votes.” He also repeated the lawsuit’s claims that Boockvar and other election officials have prevented the Trump campaign’s poll watchers from observing the ballot-counting.

On the observer issue, the campaign filed a claim in the state Election Court on Election Day. While a lower court in Philadelphia rejected the campaign’s claims, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania gave the campaign a win, ordering that observers must be able to view “all aspects of the canvassing process within six feet.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear the case.

Morgan noted that under Pennsylvania law, if the difference between candidates comes down to half of one percent or less, that triggers an automatic recount. While the order not to count segregated ballots may not give Trump a victory in Pennsylvania, it may trigger a recount.

Legacy media outlets called the race, and Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral, votes for Biden. Pennsylvania is critical for Trump’s efforts to flip the results.

10 Reasons Pennsylvania’s Election Results May Be ‘Irredeemably Compromised’

2. Georgia

Morgan noted that Georgia’s secretary of state announced a hand recount on Wednesday, and laid out the rules for the recount today. The recount will start on Friday. The Trump counsel predicted that the recount will be finished by next Wednesday, November 18.

The Georgia Republican Party and the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit against the Chatham County Board of Elections the day after Election Day, claiming there was evidence that officials had mixed absentee ballots received after the polls closed with those already being tabulated, in violation of state law. A judge dismissed the matter two days later.

3. Wisconsin

Morgan also noted that the Trump campaign requested a recount on November 4, citing a “razor-thin race” where Biden has a 20,000-vote advantage. Recounts are set after all the county canvassing boards return their results to the state for certification on November 17 or November 18. The state must complete the recount within 13 days of the formal order and the requesting campaign usually pays for it up-front.

As former Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) noted, state recounts have often not shifted many votes. In the 2016 presidential election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested a Wisconsin recount, which resulted in a net gain of 131 votes for Trump.

4. Arizona

Morgan noted that the campaign had argued in the case Trump v. Hobbs on Thursday. The campaign sued Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, alleging that her office incorrectly rejected some votes cast on Election Day in Maricopa County. The campaign requested a manual inspection of the ballots and asked for a judge to block the state’s final vote certification in the meantime.

The lawsuit claims that an electronic tabulation machine alerted voters to irregularities with their ballots. While state law allows voters an opportunity to fix their ballots after the machine flags problems, some poll workers allegedly encouraged voters to override the error message. Hobbs’ spokeswoman denounced the allegations as “a repackaged ‘Sharpiegate’ lawsuit,” referring to since-dropped legal claims that voters’ use of Sharpies on ballots disqualified their ballots.

AG Barr Authorizes DOJ to Investigate Credible Allegations of Voter Fraud

5. Michigan

Lastly, Morgan turned to Michigan.

The Trump campaign sued Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D-Mich.) on November 4, claiming that officials failed to give Republican poll watchers “meaningful access” to watch ballot-counting. The lawsuit asks the court to stall the counting. On November 7, a Michigan judge denied the attempt to halt the counting of absentee ballots, partly because the suit targeted the wrong defendant (Benson does not oversee absentee ballot-counting) and it came too late (counting had ceased by that time).

The Trump campaign is seeking to appeal the matter.

The Great Lakes Justice Center, a conservative legal group, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Michigan residents on November 9, alleging that Detroit elections officials counted ineligible absentee ballots and improperly excluded observers from the ballot-counting process. The lawsuit also cites a Detroit elections employee who claims she saw city employees coaching voters to cast ballots for Biden in the weeks before the election. The lawsuit asks judges to block state officials from certifying the election results.

Chief Judge Timothy M. Kenny of the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Michigan is expected to rule this week.

On November 10, the Trump campaign filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Benson and officials in Detroit’s Wayne County had blocked Republican poll watchers from observing the counting of mail-in ballots. The lawsuit asks a judge to block state officials from finalizing the results.

It remains unclear how much these lawsuits will impact Biden’s margins in these key states, even if they succeed. Many of the claims in these lawsuits, backed up by eyewitness affidavits, are extremely troubling and deserve serious investigation. Trump supporters should not expect, however, that the resolution of these issues will put the president over the top.

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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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