Apologists for President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election insist he has the right to request recounts in close races and sue to “verify the fairness and accuracy of the election.”
Of course he does — anyone can file a lawsuit. Heck, my son could sue his brother for stealing his Nintendo Switch. (He was really just borrowing it).
But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
So let’s look at the actual lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign.
(The renegade idea to persuade state legislatures to overturn the votes of the people and declare their electoral votes for Trump is malarkey for another column.)
As The Associated Press reported, the lawsuits have “proved a disaster in court, where judges uniformly rejected their claims of vote fraud and found the campaign’s legal work amateurish.” Legal briefs have been littered with typos, misspellings and embarrassing mistakes like referring to a “Second Amendment Complaint” instead of a second amended complaint.
Overall, as the president’s henchmen made clear, the lawsuits tried to allege ”widespread, nationwide voter fraud.” But they have yet to include any details of such widespread voter fraud in their legal complaints.
To claim fraud in a legal complaint, the plaintiff must allege details with particularity. And in Pennsylvania at least, the plaintiffs didn’t have particular details to allege.
The lawsuits have focused on six states:
Lawsuits filed in Arizona by individual voters, the Arizona Republican Party and the Trump campaign have claimed vote tabulation equipment malfunctioned. The cases sought (1) to allow one voter to vote again, (2) to allow all voters to fix their ballots, (3) to allow the manual inspection of in-person ballots and (4) to bar the county from certifying results.
The cases have been dropped or dismissed.
Lawsuits in Georgia have been filed by individuals in federal court seeking to exclude ballots from certain counties and seeking to block certification. Lawsuits in state court by the Georgia Republican Party and the Trump campaign challenged 53 absentee ballots that may have been received after the deadline.
The cases have been dropped or dismissed. Trump’s campaign has requested a recount.
Individual voters and poll challengers have filed lawsuits in Michigan state and federal courts alleging voting irregularities and seeking to block certification. The Trump campaign also filed suits in state and federal courts alleging “fraud and incompetence,” claiming observers could not properly watch the counting process and seeking to block certification or stop the counting of absentee ballots.
The cases have been dropped or dismissed. Trump’s campaign has appealed.
The Trump campaign filed lawsuits in Nevada state court alleging voter fraud and irregularities and seeking to stop the vote count in Las Vegas and to name Trump the winner. Republican candidates have also filed lawsuits in state court alleging misconduct by state officials and the improper use of an optical scanning machine to review voter signatures. Individuals have also sued in state court and asked the court to block certification.
Requests to block certification and/or stop vote counting have been denied. The Trump campaign has dropped its case seeking to stop the vote count in Las Vegas. The lawsuits by candidates seeking a new election are still pending, as is the campaign’s lawsuit seeking to declare Trump the winner.
The efforts in Pennsylvania have been similarly unsuccessful. As one court stated, “The relief Petitioners seek is simply breathtaking. They ask this Court to invalidate Pennsylvania’s voting laws, undo the results of Pennsylvania’s general election and disenfranchise several million voters.”
Individuals and candidates have filed lawsuits in federal court seeking to block counting, alleging, among other things, that the county unfairly allowed 93 voters to fix technical mistakes on their mail-in ballots. The state Republican Party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a decision extending the mail-in ballot deadline by three days. Trump’s campaign has asked to intervene in the case. Trump’s campaign has also challenged ballots as “defective” in multiple state court filings and filed for closer access to ballot canvassing. The campaign has also filed suit to block certification, alleging that observers weren’t given meaningful access.
Courts have dismissed most of the cases that were not dropped by the plaintiffs. Appellate courts have upheld the three-day extension and a decision to count mail-in ballots in Allegheny County. A state court did grant an injunction regarding ballots with missing proofs of identification in which the voter failed to submit identification within six days. One case is still pending in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Pennsylvania lieutenant governor tweeted that, out of 6 million votes cast, there were two cases of criminal voter fraud. Both cases were Republican voters.
Three voters sued to exclude ballots alleging widespread fraud.
The plaintiffs dropped their case Nov. 16. The Trump campaign has filed for a recount.
In short, plaintiffs in these lawsuits lack standing, lack evidence and lack any legal reasoning for the remedies they demand. I may have missed some pending cases, but the point is, there is little chance these legal battles will overturn the election.
The fact is, in states with a majority of electoral votes, officials — including Republican officials — have determined that the voting has been fair, and that Joe Biden is the winner.
The irony is, the lawsuits have proved it.
Michelle Quist is a Salt Lake City attorney and a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.