Trump’s Election Lawsuits: Where the Court Fights Are Playing Out

The Trump campaign has filed at least six lawsuits in battleground states since Election Day to challenge the ballot counts.  Republican and Democrat activists have also filed suit, but only a few of the cases may have a real chance to affect the final outcome — and only if the races remain extremely close. Trump has scored two wins and two losses since Nov. 3. Below is a list of key court cases to watch:

Pennsylvania

With 20 electoral college votes, Pennsylvania is the biggest remaining prize on the map. President Donald Trump cannot win re-election without it, so slowing down the vote count and possibly challenging many of the ballots cast there has been the main focus of his legal efforts so far. The state has already seen its voting practices get challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a 4-4 ruling in October that allowed for a 3-day extension to receive mailed ballots. Republicans are seeking a reversal of that ruling now that Amy Coney Barrett is on the court.

Court: U.S. Supreme Court
Case Name: Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, 20-542; Scarnati v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party, 20-574
Status:  Appeal of state supreme court decision
Summary:  Two groups are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Pennsylvania cannot count that mail-in ballots that arrived up to three days after Election Day but were postmarked by Nov. 3, an extended deadline upheld by the state supreme court. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 4-4 decision declined to hear the case before the election but explicitly left open the possibility of doing so after the vote. The Trump campaign filed to intervene in the case Wednesday, which could push the high court to take it up again. Invalidating the extended deadline would block an unspecified number of ballots, potentially tens of thousands. 

Court: Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
Case Name:Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Kathy Boockvar and County Boards of Elections, 602 MD 2020
Status: Trump win
Summary: President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee sued Pennsylvania’s top election official, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, claiming she improperly extended the deadline for absentee and mail-in voters to provide any missing proof of identification from Nov. 9 to Nov. 12. They scored a victory on Thursday when a judgeordered Boockvar to segregate mail-in ballots from voters providing identification between Nov. 10 through Nov. 12, saying she would rule later on the validity of the deadline extension.

Court: Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Case Name: Philadelphia County Canvassing Observation Appeal, 1094 CD 20
Status:  Trump win, Democrats have appealed the ruling 
Summary:  The Trump campaign sued on Election Day, claiming its representatives were being denied “reasonable access” to monitor the counting of votes in Philadelphia because they were kept at a far distance from the process. The suit was dismissed on Wednesday by a Philadelphia trial court, but an appellate court on Thursday reversed that ruling and ordered officials to allow all poll observers to watch the ballot-counting from a distance of six feet. Philadelphia election officials are seeking to appeal that decision to the state’s highest court.

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Case Name: Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections, 20-5533
Status:  Filed Nov. 5 
Summary:  The Trump campaign filed an emergency request to stop the county Board of Elections “from continuing to count any ballots so long as Republican observers are not present as required by state law.”

Court: Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
Case Name: Hamm, Kelly, Allred, Horner, Connor and Hauser v. Boockvar, 600 MD 2020
Status:  Awaiting judge’s ruling
Summary:  A group that includes Republican candidates and officials is asking a judge to block election officials in Montgomery County, which is mainly Democratic-leaning suburbs of Philadelphia, from notifying voters and helping them “cure” defective votes. The plaintiffs on Thursday withdrew their request for an emergency order segregating such votes, which may only affect a few dozen ballots.

Michigan

Biden is the projected winner of the state’s 16 electoral college votes, according to the Associated Press. The Trump campaign has tried to halt the count, saying it needs more access. 

Court: Michigan Court of Claims
Case Name: Donald J. Trump and Eric Ostergren v. Jocelyn Benson, 20-000225-MZ
Status: Trump loss
Summary: The Trump campaignclaims it hasn’t been given meaningful access to counting locations to observe the process for opening and tabulating ballots as guaranteed under state law. A judge on Thursdayrejected the request, saying “At this point, the essence of the count is completed, and the relief is completely unavailable.”

Georgia

Trump has a lead that is narrowing as more votes are counted. A Democrat hasn’t won a presidential election in the state since Bill Clinton. 

Court: Eastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia
Case Name:In Re: Enforcement of Election Laws and Securing Ballots Cast or Received after 7:00pm on November 3, 2020, SPCV20-00982
Status:  Trump loss
Summary: The campaign claims a Republican poll observer in Chatham County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Savannah, witnessed late ballots being illegally added to a stack of on-time absentee ballots. A judge rejected that assertion,ruling Thursday that “there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7 p.m. on Election Day, thereby making those ballots invalid.”

Nevada

Election results from the Nevada Secretary of State showed Biden’s lead over Donald Trump to 12,042 votes, or 1 percentage point. The Trump campaign held a press conference Thursday announcing a lawsuit, which has yet to show up in online filings. 

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada
Case Name:  TBD
Status: Filed Nov. 5
Summary: The Trump campaign alleges that10,000 votes were illegally cast by people no longer residing in the state. It’s unclear what legal basis they’re relying on, since state law clearly permits people who have left to retain their voting privileges if they intend to return.

Wisconsin

The Trump campaign has said it will seek a recount in Wisconsin, where he trails Biden. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, suggested another lawsuit could be filed in the state, claiming “exactly the same thing happened” as in Pennsylvania in terms of denying the Trump campaign access to the ballot count. No suit has apparently been filed, although one Democrat has asked a judge a New York to step into the matter. 

Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
Case Name: Pierson v. Stepien,20-CV-9266
Status: Filed Nov. 4
Summary: A Wisconsin woman who voted for Joe Biden asked a federal court in Manhattan to block the Trump campaign’s manager, its lawyer “and any of their agents” from seeking the launch of a recount in Wisconsin, claiming in a lawsuit that a “peculiar” state law allowing any candidate with ample cash to demand a recount has fueled “a scorched Earth tactic to sow discord and paranoia in the fields of Wisconsin.”

— With assistance by Erik Larson, Chris Dolmetsch, David Voreacos, and Greg Stohr

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