Lawsuit tracker: where and how is Donald Trump fighting the result?

Donald Trump’s baseless claims that his loss to Joe Biden was due to election fraud have been accompanied by a flurry of lawsuits attempting to undo the result of the November 3 election.

None of the lawsuits so far appear likely to change the outcome, legal experts have said. In the main, judges have found the campaign’s claims to be lacking in evidence of significant irregularities. Mr Trump has had some successes on questions of process or small numbers of ballots that would not affect the overall vote.

The Financial Times has summarised the main legal challenges made by Mr Trump’s legal team since election day:

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 63,005 votes, or 0.92%

Certification deadline: November 23

State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc v. Kathy Boockvar and County Boards of Elections

Relief sought: Tossing out some ballots

Current status: Relief granted

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear, but expected to be small

Voters in Pennsylvania can fix or “cure” issues with their ballots after polling day. For example, the required identification for a mail ballot might be missing. County elections boards try to reach such voters to allow them to cure these problems so their vote can still count.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, had issued guidance to allow voters to cure mail ballot ID issues by November 12, three days after the deadline under state law.

This was in line with a three-day extension to mail ballot deadlines ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a decision that is the subject of continued litigation at the US Supreme Court.

The Trump campaign sued to prevent the counting of any mail ballots where the ID was cured in the extended period set out by Ms Boockvar. A state judge granted their request.

Trump campaign complaint | Pennsylvania response | Order of the court

Name: In re: Canvassing Observation

Relief sought: Standing closer to poll workers as they counted ballots

Current status: On appeal

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear if any at all

Votes in Philadelphia were counted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where local election officials had instituted social-distancing rules as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. These included limiting how close election observers could get to the poll workers as they counted ballots. The count was also live-streamed online.

The Trump campaign sued to be allowed to stand as close as 6 feet away. A state trial court denied the request, but a state appeals court sided with the campaign. The case is currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

Trump campaign filing | Pennsylvania appeal

Federal court cases

Name: Donald J Trump For President, Inc et al v. Boockvar et al

Relief sought: Prevent the certification of Pennsylvania’s election result

Current status: Pending

Number of ballots at issue: Potentially all

This lawsuit brought together a broad swath of alleged irregularities in Pennsylvania’s election to claim that the entire process was fundamentally unconstitutional. It sought to prevent the state from certifying its results, which it must do by November 23.

The lawsuit claimed that ballots were treated differently in different counties, that voters were improperly allowed to fix issues with defective ballots, and that large collections of mail ballots were unlawfully counted.

The case included claims about how close observers could stand to poll workers, and allegations from a Pennsylvania postal worker that his supervisor tampered with mail ballots. The worker walked back the claims when interviewed by United States Postal Service investigators.

Pennsylvania said the lawsuit was brought “on the basis of repeatedly-rejected legal theories and no evidence”.

On Thursday the Trump campaign’s law firm in the case, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, moved to withdraw from the case. Hearings are currently set for Tuesday and Thursday next week. 

Trump campaign complaint | Pennsylvania motion to dismiss | Democratic National Committee response

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections

Relief sought: Halting the count in Philadelphia

Current status: Settled

Number of ballots at issue: None

While Pennsylvania was still tallying votes, the Trump campaign rushed into federal court seeking an emergency injunction to stop the count in Philadelphia. It claimed its observers were not allowed to be present in the counting room. At an emergency hearing, the campaign’s lawyer admitted that, in fact, some of its observers were present, prompting the judge to ask: “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?”

The case was settled at the hearing with an agreement that Republicans and Democrats could have up to 60 observers each in the counting room.

Trump campaign complaint

Michigan mini-map

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 148,382 votes, or 2.6%

Certification deadline: November 23

State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc et al v. Jocelyn Benson

Relief sought: Halting the counting of absentee ballots

Current status: Request denied, appeal pending

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear

Under Michigan law, ballot drop boxes must be monitored by video surveillance cameras. The Trump campaign sued to stop the counting of absentee ballots because it claimed that its observers had the right to view all video footage of the drop boxes before the ballots could be counted. The lawsuit also included claims from a poll watcher who had heard from a poll worker that they had been told by other poll workers to change the dates on late ballots.

The judge denied the request to stop the count, calling the poll watcher’s claims “inadmissible hearsay within hearsay” and noting that the Trump campaign had not cited any Michigan law that required drop box video footage to be provided for review to election observers.

The Trump campaign appealed the ruling. The appeal was initially rejected because the filing did not follow Michigan judicial rules for appeals.

Trump campaign complaint | Michigan Response | Judge’s order

Federal court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc et al v. Jocelyn Benson et al

Relief sought: Prevent the certification of Michigan’s election results

Current status: Pending

Number of ballots at issue: Potentially all

The Trump campaign’s lawsuit alleged that Michigan state officials had allowed “fraud and incompetence to corrupt the conduct of the 2020 general election”. It included more than a hundred affidavits from Republican observers who claimed they witnessed election irregularities and were denied the chance to meaningfully observe the count. Many of the allegations related to Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

The Democratic attorney-general of Michigan, Dana Nessel, has called the case “baseless”, adding: “If I ever walked into court with claims this baseless and this frivolous, I would be sanctioned.”

Trump campaign complaint

Nevada header

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 35,361 votes, or 2.7%

Certification deadline: December 1

Federal court cases

Name: Stokke et al v. Cegavske et al

Relief sought: Preventing the use of signature verification machines in Clark County

Current status: Emergency motion for relief denied

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear if any

The Trump campaign was not a party to this case, but it did hold a press conference touting the lawsuit, so the Financial Times is including it. The case was brought by four Nevada Republicans against Clark County, the largest in the state and home to Las Vegas.

One of the plaintiffs claimed that the use of signature matching machines meant that a mail ballot had been improperly recorded in their name. A second claimed they were not allowed to observe the count.

At a hearing on November 6, a federal judge noted that the plaintiffs had no evidence to show that the signature matching machines affected their ballot. The motion for emergency relief was denied because the plaintiffs did not provide “a sufficient legal showing and a sufficient evidentiary basis”.

Complaint | Nevada response

Arizona header

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 10,986 votes, or 0.32%

Certification deadline: November 30

State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc et al vs. Katie Hobbs et al

Relief sought: Prevent Maricopa County certifying its results and review all over-votes

Current status: Moot

Number of ballots at issue: 191

The Trump campaign’s case largely repackaged previously debunked claims that Republican voters who encountered issues with voting machines were encouraged to mark ballots with Sharpie pens that would invalidate their votes.

The claim was that Sharpie ink might bleed through the paper and create an “over-vote”, where a ballot indicates a preference for more than one candidate. Arizona election officials have repeatedly said that ballots marked with a Sharpie were still counted.

The number of “over-votes” of any kind in the Arizona presidential race was 191.

At a hearing on November 12, the lawyer representing the Trump campaign admitted that one of their witnesses was his business partner, and that they knew some of the witness affidavits the campaign had collected via an online form were effectively spam.

On Friday the Trump campaign said in a filing that the case was now moot because Arizona had finished counting its votes and the margin was far greater than the number of over-votes.

Trump campaign complaint | Arizona motion to dismiss | Trump campaign notice of mootness

Georgia mini map

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 14,172 votes, or 0.29%

Certification deadline: November 20

State court cases

Name: In re: Enforcement of Election Laws and Securing Ballots Cast or Received after 7pm on November 3 2020

Relief sought: Segregate mail ballots that arrived after deadline 

Current status: Dismissed

Number of ballots at issue: 54

The Trump campaign had claimed that vote counters in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, had not been properly separating mail ballots that arrived before and after an election-day deadline. To support these claims, they included claims from a poll watcher who thought he saw 54 late-arriving ballots mixed in with other ballots.

A judge dismissed the case at a hearing on November 5, finding “no evidence” that the 54 ballots had in fact arrived late.

Complaint | Dismissal

This is a tracker article that will be periodically updated. The last update was November 14 at 6am ET.

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