Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR News

Trump Election Lawsuits Have Mostly Failed. Here's What They Tried

Attorney for the President, Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media at a press conference held in the back parking lot of a landscaping company over the weekend in Philadelphia.
Attorney for the President, Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media at a press conference held in the back parking lot of a landscaping company over the weekend in Philadelphia.

Updated at 12:24 p.m. ET

Despite calls from many for a concession this weekend, President Trump and his campaign say they are pushing on to fight the election results tooth-and-nail.

Practically speaking, that means lawsuits.

"Our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated," Trump said in a statement Saturday. "The American People are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots."

The problem is, Trump's campaign has spent much of the past week in court with little success and without presenting anything close to evidence that points to a fraudulent result.

"You can't go to court just because you don't like the vote totals," Ohio State election law professor Ned Foley said on MSNBC over the weekend. "You have to have a legal claim, and you have to have evidence to back it up. And that's just not there."

Here's a run-through of the litigation the Trump campaign has filed so far:

Pennsylvania: Extended deadlines, observers

Philadelphia may be the central location in President Trump's quest to prove the 2020 election was stolen from him.

As expected, Republican voters voted more heavily on Election Day in Pennsylvania, a critical swing state, and Democrats voted in significantly larger numbers by mail.

Because laws around the vote counting process did not adjust to that reality, it took days before it was clear that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the state.

The Trump campaign and many Republicans, however, have seized on the time it has taken for officials to count ballots as a sign of something fraudulent happening. But the lawsuits they have filed have not borne that narrative out.

Thus far, the campaign has scored a few wins in court but none that will have an effect on the result of the state. A state court, and separately the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that local officials must segregate some ballots in case deadlines that were extended by the secretary of state are found to be unconstitutional.

It's unclear how many ballots that will be at this point, but experts are extremely skeptical it will be anywhere close to enough to overturn Biden's current 45,000-vote lead in the state.

Separately, a state judge ruled that election observers could stand slightly closer to election officials than they were previously allowed to, but a request to stop vote counting over the issue was dismissed.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told NPR that despite Trump's rhetoric about "big" legal wins in the state, the lawsuits thus far have yielded no material changes to election processes.

"I'm not going to get into a rhetorical battle with the president ... but it's hardly a big win," Shapiro said after the court decision that allowed observers in Philadelphia to stand a few feet closer to election workers. "It has no effect on the outcome of this election."

At a press conference Monday afternoon at the Republican National Committee headquarters, a number of top Republicans announced a fresh lawsuit in Pennsylvania over what it claimed was unfair and unequal treatment of Republicans in the state's election. That litigation is ongoing.

Michigan: Unfounded claims of lack of transparency

Similarly, in Michigan the Trump campaign has tried to allude to improprieties in a major city in a state it won in 2016, but lost this year. In Michigan's case: Detroit.

The campaign's claims have focused on an alleged lack of transparency in the vote-counting process, but in two cases, judges have not been swayed.

"This court finds that while there are assertions made by the plaintiffs that there is no evidence in support of those assertions," said Judge Timothy Kenny in denying a request to delay certification of election results.

"On this factual record, I have no basis to find that there's a substantial likelihood of success on the merits as relates to this defendant, nor am I convinced that there is a clear legal duty on behalf of anyone who is properly before this court to manage this issue," said Judge Cynthia Stephens in denying a separate request to stop the state's vote counting.

Still, the Trump campaign says it has more evidence to come regarding the elections process in Detroit. Two voters filed suit against the City of Detroit and its elections commission, alleging a number of crimes on the part of election officials. The suit includes an affidavit from an elections employee who makes a number of claims that have been disputed by city officials.

"We have only begun the process of obtaining an accurate and honest vote count," said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Arizona: Baseless Sharpie conspiracies

A rumor, which has been debunked by the Department of Homeland Security, still led to a lawsuit by the Trump campaign in Arizona.

The campaign alleged that some voters had their ballots incorrectly rejected because they used Sharpies to fill them out. It's a claim that went viral on social media, despite officials insisting it was not true.

"Don't promote disinfo! Stop spreading #SharpieGate claims," said Chris Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The agency debunked the claim on its Rumor Control website, which fact-checks election misinformation.

Republicans in the state dropped the Sharpie lawsuit Saturday but then filed a separate suit alleging other votes in the state were incorrectly rejected.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, called the suit a "repackaging" of the Sharpie conspiracy theory, in a local TV interview.

"The claims are baseless," Hobbs said. "At this point folks are grasping at straws."

Georgia: No evidence of late ballots counted

A Georgia judge summarily dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit last week that alleged ballots received after a 7 p.m. Election Day deadline were mixed in with legitimate ballots, according to The Current, a nonprofit newsroom in Georgia that partners with NPR member station Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Republicans in the state based their allegations on testimony from a Georgia GOP poll watcher who was subsequently unable to provide any evidence.

"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," Judge James F. Bass wrote, in dismissing the case.

On Monday, Georgia's two sitting Republican senators called for the state's Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to resign after alleging "too many failures in Georgia elections this year" but without mentioning specifics to support their claims, as reported by GPB's Stephen Fowler.

Raffensperger shot back.

"My job is to follow Georgia law and see to it that all legal votes, and no illegal votes, are counted properly and accurately," he said. "As secretary of state, that is my duty, and I will continue to do my duty. As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Sens. Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that."

Nevada: Rejected requests to stop machine verification, processing of mail ballots

In Nevada, another state Biden seems to have won by a fairly thin margin, Nevada Republicans filed a lawsuit that, had it been successful, would have slowed down the vote-counting process.

The Trump campaign and the Nevada Republican Party claimed that "irregularities have plagued the election" in Clark County, the state's most populous county, without providing evidence. They argued that the county should not be able to use a machine to verify signatures, but federal Judge Andrew Gordon rejected the request.

The Trump campaign also earlier sued unsuccessfully to stop the processing of mail ballots in Clark County.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 10, 2020 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a federal judge in Pennsylvania had allowed Republican poll observers closer access to the vote counting process. It was a state court judge that made the order.