Election 2020 Legal Challenges: Everything You Need To Know
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 05: The U.S. Supreme Court is shown February 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. It was announced today that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
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It’s the evening of Friday November 6th, a full 3 days since the end of Election Day, and we still do not yet know whether Joe Biden has succeeded in his bid to replace Donald Trump as President of the United States. What we do know is that the race remains agonizingly close in several key battleground states, with Joe Biden just 17 electoral votes away from victory. One factor which will almost certainly delay the final result beyond next week is the collection of lawsuits being filed by the Trump campaign against various states, with others likely to soon follow. Here is an overview of all the key cases that have been filed, some decided and some still in play.

Arizona — correct “mismatched” signatures

After Republicans appealed an Arizona judge’s decision to permit voters to sign their ballots up to five days after the election, or correct “mismatched” signatures — “ones that didn’t match the ones on file” — a federal appeals court overturned this five-day grace period.

In its opinion, issued in early October, the court ruled, “All ballots must have some deadline, and it is reasonable that Arizona has chosen to make that deadline Election Day itself so as to promote its unquestioned interest in administering an orderly election and to facilitate its already burdensome job of collecting, verifying, and counting all of the votes in timely fashion.”

Georgia — ballot deadline

The Georgia Republican Party and the Republican National Committee had filed a lawsuit to return the state’s absentee ballot return deadline to 7 p.m. on Election Day, rather than an original ruling which permitted mail-in ballots to be accepted if they arrived by November 6th if they were postmarked by November 3rd.

After the decision was made to overturn the ruling that mail-in ballots can be accepted beyond Election Day, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said, “We are glad the 11th Circuit recognized that long-standing Georgia law should remain in place for this election. Georgia’s election officials have made it easier than ever for voters to meet that deadline by implementing online absentee ballot requests to streamline the request process and secure drop boxes to allow contactless return of absentee ballots.”

Georgia — ballot storage

Late on Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed which claimed that “absentee ballots received after the 7 p.m. Election Day deadline were not stored in a way that would prevent them from being processed and counted.” It includes the text: “Failing to ensure that absentee ballots received after the deadline are stored in a manner to ensure that such ballots are not inadvertently or intentionally counted, as required under Georgia law, harms the interests of the Trump Campaign and President Trump because it could lead to the dilution of legal votes cast in support of President Trump.”

If absentee ballots are received beyond the deadline in Georgia, they must be left unopened and stored for “a period of time and eventually destroyed.”

Michigan — ballot deadline

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Republicans who petitioned to establish Election Day as the deadline for all ballots, including absentee ballots. This reversed a prior decision which allowed ballots received within 14 days to be accepted if they were postmarked by November 3rd.

Michigan — access to counting

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign released a statement claiming that they had “not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law.”

The suit, filed in the Michigan Court of Claims, called for elections officials to “halt counting until meaningful access has been granted,” and demanded that the Trump campaign may “review those ballots which were opened and counted” during the time they were allegedly without “meaningful access.”

The case cites Eric Ostergren, a “registered voter of Roscommon County, Michigan and credentialed and trained as an election ‘challenger,’” and alleges that Ostergren was “excluded from the counting board during the absent voter ballot review process.”

Later, the suit alleges that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson failed in her responsibilities, claiming that “Secretary Benson is violating the Michigan Constitution and Michigan election law by allowing absent voter ballots to be processed and counted without allowing challengers to observe the video of the ballot boxes in which these ballots are placed,” in addition to other accusations.

Minnesota — ballot deadline

An original lawsuit filed with Republican support aimed to challenge the state’s decision to permit absentee ballots to be received and counted up to 7 days after Election Day. The lawsuit failed, but Republicans successfully appealed the ruling, with the deadline of Election Day set for absentee ballots.

Nevada — halt early voting

On Monday, a “Nevada judge rejected a GOP lawsuit seeking to halt early vote counting in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, over stringency of signature-matching computer software and how closely observers can watch votes being counted.”

District Court Judge James Wilson ruled that the Republicans had “failed to prove they have standing to bring their Agillis (the signature matching software), observation, ballot handing or secrecy claims.”

Pennsylvania — access to counting

After being denied by the Presiding Election Day Judge, Linda Kerns (Donald Trump’s counsel) filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on Election Day. The original petition was to request closer observation of the canvassing of ballot. The court ruled against the appeal:

“The Petitioner’s witness provided copious testimony as to his ability to observe the opening and sorting of ballots. His concerns pertained to his inability to observe the writing on the outside of the ballots. Given that observers are directed only to observe and not to audit ballots, we conclude, based on the witness’s testimony, that the Board of Elections has complied with the observation requirements…”

Pennsylvania ballot deadline

On October 28th, “the Supreme Court voted 5-3 on Wednesday to deny a bid from Pennsylvania Republicans to expedite their request to shorten the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots.”

The Trump campaign filed a motion to intervene in this lawsuit. “Given last night’s results, the vote in Pennsylvania may well determine the next President of the United States,” the motion reads. “And this Court, not the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, should have the final say on the relevant and dispositive legal questions.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan voted to deny the case on October 28th, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joining Samuel Alito in dissent, writing: “the petition for certiorari remains before us, and if it is granted, the case can then be decided under a shortened schedule. In addition, the Court’s denial of the motion to expedite is not a denial of a request for this Court to order that ballots received after election day be segregated so that if the State Supreme Court’s decision is ultimately overturned, a targeted remedy will be available.”

In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court may entertain “targeted remedies,” such as the invalidation of a portion of ballots after the election.

On Friday evening, the Supreme Court issued an order directing Pennsylvania election officials to separate ballots received after Election Day and, if they count them, count them separately.

Texas drive-through voting

On Monday, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals “denied a bid by Texas Republicans to block Election Day drive-through voting in Harris County,” a county which contains Houston. If successful, this lawsuit would have invalidated more than 100,000 votes.

The three-judge panel wrote: “It is ordered that appellants’ motion for injunctive relief to issue a preliminary injunction banning drive-thru voting on Election Day, November 3, 2020, is denied.” No additional explanation was provided.

Wisconsin recount

On Wednesday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien released a statement which included the claim: “There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results. The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

Under Wisconsin state law, “a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent.”

With 0.6% separating Trump and Biden in Wisconsin, amounting to over 20,000 votes, Trump is able to demand a recount.

Related: How Much Did Pollsters Underestimate Trump Support? The Final Polls vs. The Results

Ian Haworth is host of The Ian Haworth Show and The Truth in 60 Seconds. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.

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