In wake of election, 25 lawsuits filed over election’s conduct



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Post-election lawsuits have been filed in five states
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In wake of election, 25 lawsuits filed over election’s conduct

In the week since Election Day, 25 lawsuits disputing some aspect of the election’s conduct have been filed. President Donald Trump’s (R) campaign organization has filed 15 of those lawsuits.

What are the issues? 

Post-election lawsuits can involve three broad issues:

  • Counting procedures: Lawsuits over counting procedures challenge some aspect of a jurisdiction’s procedures for processing, verifying, or counting ballots. These challenges most often apply to absentee/mail-in ballots, but they can also involve ballots cast in person. Thirteen post-election lawsuits – 54 percent of the total  – involve disputes over counting procedures. 
  • Ballot/voter challenges: Lawsuits can also challenge the validity of groups of ballots, or the eligibility of groups of voters. These challenges generally seek to invalidate or remove disputed ballots from the final count. Eleven post-election lawsuits – 46 percent of the total – are ballot/voter challenges. 
  • Recount disputes: If a formal recount is conducted, one of the parties involved in the process can file a lawsuit challenging its conduct. No lawsuits over recount procedures have been filed.

Where have lawsuits been filed?

Post-election lawsuits have been filed in five states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

  • Arizona: 2 lawsuits
  • Georgia: 1 lawsuit
  • Michigan: 5 lawsuits
  • Nevada: 3 lawsuits
  • Pennsylvania: 13 lawsuits

Trump campaign lawsuits 

Since Election Day, the Trump campaign has filed 15 lawsuits: one in Arizona, one in Georgia, two in Michigan, two in Nevada, and nine in Pennsylvania.

Arizona: 1 lawsuit

  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Hobbs
    • Court: Maricopa County Superior Court
    • Issue: Whether ballots with facial irregularities (e.g., apparent overvotes, stray markings, etc.) cast in-person on Election Day were illegally disqualified without additional review.
    • Outcome: Pending

Georgia: 1 lawsuit

  • In re: enforcement of election laws and securing ballots cast or received after 7:00 P.M. on November 3, 2020
    • Court: Chatham County Superior Court
    • Issue: Whether absentee/mail-in ballots received after the statutory receipt deadline had been illegally accepted and mixed with ballots received before the deadline.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 5, Judge James F. Bass, Jr., dismissed the lawsuit: “[The] Court finds that there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, thereby making those ballots invalid. Additionally, there is no evidence that the Chatham County Board of Elections or the Chatham County Board of Registrars has failed to comply with the law.”

Michigan: 2 lawsuits (1 original lawsuit and 1 appeal)

  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Benson
    • Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (lower court: Michigan Court of Claims)
    • Issue: Whether an election challenger was illegally prevented from participating in the absentee/mail-in ballot review process.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 6, Judge Cynthia Stephens denied the campaign’s request to suspend the processing and counting of absentee/mail-in ballots, citing “problems with the factual and evidentiary record.” The campaign appealed Stephens’ decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Nevada: 2 lawsuits (1 original lawsuit and 1 appeal)

  • Kraus v. Cegavske (Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Gloria in the lower court)
    • Court: Nevada Supreme Court (lower court: Clark County District Court)
    • Issue: Whether Clark County election officials could use artificial intelligence to verify mail-in ballot signatures and make copies of ballots whose originals could not be machine-processed.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 3, the Nevada Supreme Court declined to block a lower court’s order allowing the Clark County registrar to use artificial intelligence to verify mail-in ballot signatures and make copies of ballots whose originals could not be machine-processed. The state supreme court found that the campaign had not demonstrated “a sufficient likelihood of success to merit a stay or injunction.” The court has not issued a ruling on the merits.

Pennsylvania: 9 lawsuits (6 original lawsuits and 3 appeals)

  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Boockvar
    • Court: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • Issue: Whether some absentee and mail-in ballots were accepted and counted in violation of state law, and whether those ballots should be stricken from the count.
    • Outcome: Pending
  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Boockvar
    • Court: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
    • Issue: Whether the secretary of the commonwealth illegally extended the deadline for mail-in voters to provide missing proof of identification after submitting their ballots.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 5, Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ordered election officials to “segregate ballots for which identification is received and verified on Nov. 10, 11, and 12 from ballots for which identification is received and verified on or before Nov. 9.” Leavitt has not issued a ruling on the merits.
  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections
    • Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • Issue: Whether the Philadelphia County Board of Elections violated state law and the U.S. Constitution and declined to allow watchers for the Trump campaign and the Republican Party to observe the mail-in ballot counting process.
    • Outcome: The parties to the lawsuit agreed to allow 60 observers each from the Democratic and Republican parties. On Nov. 5, the court dismissed the lawsuit as moot in light of this agreement.
  • In re: canvass of absentee and mail-in ballots of November 3, 2020, general election
    • Court: Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas
    • Issue: Whether Montgomery County election officials illegally counted approximately 600 absentee and mail-in ballots for which the outer envelope declaration had not been filled out.
    • Outcome: Pending
  • In re: canvassing observation; Appeal of: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
    • Court: Pennsylvania Supreme Court (on appeal from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court; lower court: Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas)
    • Issue: Whether candidates and their representatives can observe aspects of the canvassing process from within 6 feet of election workers.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 5, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon ordered the Philadelphia Board of Elections to allow “all candidates, watchers, or candidate representatives … [to be] permitted to observe all aspects of the canvassing process within 6 feet, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.” Cannon overturned a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas ruling, which had upheld a rule requiring observations to take place with at least 6 feet separating the observer from the election worker. Democrats appealed Cannon’s ruling to the state supreme court.
  • In re: pre-canvass of absentee and mail-in ballots of November 3, 2020, general election
    • Court: Bucks County Court of Common Pleas
    • Issue: Whether the Bucks County Board of Elections violated state law by allowing the disclosure of voter identification information for mail-in ballots voided during the pre-canvass meeting prior to the close of polls .
    • Outcome: Pending
  • Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar
    • Court: U.S. Supreme Court
    • Issue: Whether a state supreme court order extending the mail-in ballot receipt deadline to Nov. 6, overriding the statutory receipt deadline of Nov. 3, was legal.
    • Outcome: Associate Justice Samuel Alito ordered county election officials to segregate and separately count mail-in ballots received between 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. He referred the matter to the full court, which has not issued a ruling on the merits.


Absentee/mail-in voting modifications in the general election

With the general election over, let’s take a look back at the modifications states made to their absentee/mail-in voting procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All told, 37 states modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures for the general election. These modifications can be divided into the following five broad categories:

  • Automatic absentee/mail-in ballots: Five states (California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont) automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballots automatically to all eligible voters. These states are shaded in yellow in the map below.
  • Automatic mail-in ballot applications: Eleven states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to all eligible voters. These states are shaded in dark blue in the map below.
  • Eligibility expansions: Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) expanded absentee/mail-in voting eligibility. These states are shaded in light blue in the map below.
  • Deadline extensions: Five states (Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) extended absentee/mail-in ballot application or submission deadlines. These states are shaded in dark gray in the map below.
  • Other process changes: Four states (Alaska, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) made other modifications to their absentee/mail-in ballot procedures. These states are shaded in gray in the map below.


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About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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