The Trump campaign and its allies unveiled a replacement tactic to contest election vote counts, suing to prevent state officials from finalizing results thanks to fraud allegations in Michigan and limits imposed on poll observers in Pennsylvania.Judges likely would be reluctant to require the rare step of blocking final vote counts without seeing substantial evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to vary 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 beat in court. In Michigan, Mr. Biden’s lead was 146,000 votes with 99% counted, and in Pennsylvania it had been 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 dam state officials from certifying the election results.
The Trump campaign’s Pennsylvania lawsuit alleges that poll observers were kept too distant from vote counters, which 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 need Pennsylvania officials to invalidate ballots in cases where voters were notified and allowed to repair problems.
Philadelphia election officials said that they had found out a neighborhood where candidates and party representatives could view the space without impeding the vote-processing operation. State election officials have said they followed all laws.
In Michigan, the good 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 within 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 answer an invitation for comment.Michigan officials have defended and praised the state’s electoral system , which handled record turnout and quite 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 think about delaying the certification, the Trump campaign “would need to come to the fore with evidence of fraud that might change the election," said Jack Young, who served as former Democratic vice chairman Al Gore’s recount counsel within 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 2 candidates may be a nonstarter, said Barry Richard, the lead counsel to former President Bush in 2000.“The law on fraud is extremely simple," he said. “You walk into court and need to usher in evidence that there was fraud or voting irregularities, and you want to show that it could change the election."Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors on Monday to research fraud “if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the result of a federal election in a private State." The memo broke with past Department of Justice policy, which discouraged investigations before results are certified.
The Trump campaign’s poll-observer complaints are echoed during a state lawsuit that Pennsylvania’s highest court said Monday it might hear. The announcement by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may be 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 gaggle 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 choice by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to increase the state’s ballot-receipt period beyond its normal polling day deadline encroached on the authority of the state Legislature. The state AGs also argued that the three-day extension exacerbated the danger of mail-in ballot fraud.The supreme court hasn’t said whether it'll hear the Pennsylvania case, nor has it decided whether to grant the Trump campaign’s request to intervene within the litigation.