Election day is November 8, but legal challenges have already begun

WASHINGTON — Election Day is 12 days away. But in courtrooms across the country, efforts to cast doubt on the outcome have already begun.

More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year around the upcoming midterm elections. The suits, largely by Republicans, target the rules on postal voteearly voting, voter access, voting machines, recording of votes, counting of mismarked absentee ballots and access for partisan poll watchers.

It’s the most dispute ever before an election and this is likely a glimpse of a potentially contentious post-election landscape. The strategy was born in part of the failure of former President Donald Trump’s allies to successfully challenge and annul the free and fair results of the 2020 presidential election.

But while the 2020 electoral effort was an ad hoc response led by an increasingly ill-prepared lawyers this included Rudy Giuliani, today’s effort is a more formalized, well-funded, and well-organized campaign led by the Republican National Committee and other legal allies with good faith. Party officials say they are actively preparing for recounts, contested elections and other disputes. And there are thousands of volunteers in place ready to challenge ballots and search for evidence of wrongdoing.

“We are now at the point where accusations of fraud and suppression are integrated into the participation models of each party. Republicans accuse fraud. Democrats blame the crackdown. Each side amplifies its position with massive and costly amounts of litigation and messaging,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, co-chair of the Election Official Legal Defense Network and former campaign lawyer for George W. Bush and other Republican candidates.

Democrats also have similar efforts underway. But their pre-election legal effort aims to make it easier to vote and help those unable to vote, through legal helplines and volunteers. A team led by attorney Marc Elias and his firm is litigating about 40 cases in 19 states, some in which they have intervened in Republican-led lawsuits.

Elias said he was bracing for a deluge of litigation challenging the election results, especially as some Republican candidates have already said they won’t accept a loss or cast doubt on the election process despite no evidence of fraud.

“The problem with the Republican Party right now is that conceding that you lost an election is the only thing that will hurt you,” Elias said. “Disputing an election that is clearly lost is now where the whole incentive structure is, and it’s incredibly corrosive to democracy.”

Election disputes are nothing new; almost every election generates a legal challenge. But the bulk of these disputes usually occur after the vote, not before Election Day.

In 2020, pro-Trump lawyers filed about 60 lawsuits across the country and asked judges to overturn votes. These lawsuits were categorically dismissed. Trump’s own leadership found the election to be fair, and state election officials nationwide saw no widespread evidence of fraud. Biden secured 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, the same margin as Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, which he repeatedly described as a “landslide”.

At the time, the Republican establishment did not embrace Trump’s lies about the election. Since then, however, the lies have taken root within the party and become a major talking point for many candidates. Some refused to commit to accepting the results after November 8.

Ginsberg said unsubstantiated accusations that elections were fraudulent, rigged or unreliable have become the basis for a Republican candidate winning a contested primary in 2022 in most states, and that’s a problem.

“It can only hurt public confidence in the election, which Republicans will end up paying the price for.”

This year, the emphasis is on attack. The RNC said it has established a multimillion-dollar “election integrity” team, hiring 37 lawyers in key states, conducting more than 5,000 trainings to teach volunteers to look for voter fraud, which is rare, and filed 73 lawsuits in 20 states. Other Trump-allied legal teams are also preparing for litigation, including America First Legal, led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller.

“We have built an unprecedented electoral integrity ground game to ensure that November’s midterm elections are free, fair and transparent,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said late last month.

For three decades, the RNC was under a consent decree which prohibited him from challenging voter qualifications and targeting suspected fraud. The consent decree, which ended in 2019, stemmed from a Democratic National Committee lawsuit that argued Republicans were seeking to deter black Americans from voting by sending armed and off-duty law enforcement officers into some polling stations and sending targeted mailings warning of sanctions for election violations. laws.

In 2020, Republican poll watchers, who have no direct role in elections and cannot interfere in the electoral process outside of monitoring and reporting issues, have been the basis of numerous lawsuits by allies. of Trump. But when judges pressed evidence to support partisan claims of sleazy behavior by election workers, litigation fell through.

Election workers are increasingly subjected abuse and threats of violence. In battleground states, voter intimidation the cases are increasing. Election officials and law enforcement are increasingly concerned about overly aggressive poll watchers or people posing as poll watchers intimidating voters.

Last week the RNC won a legal challenge against Michigan Secretary of State, Democrat Jocelyn Benson, who sought to reduce rank partisanship by issuing rules on how poll challengers can operate.

“Jocelyn Benson not only ignored Michigan election law by issuing these guidelines, but also violated the rights of political parties and ballot candidates to fully ensure transparency and promote confidence that Michigan’s elections take place in a fair and legal manner,” McDaniel said in a statement.

The RNC has won legal challenges in Nevada and Arizona over the appointment of poll workers and in Wisconsin over the toughening of ballots and ballot boxes. Other lawsuits include litigation in Pennsylvania over dating postal ballots and whether outside parties should be allowed to examine voting machines.

Democrats also continue to file litigation. Democratic-led groups have filed about 35 lawsuits mostly aimed at facilitating voting. Just this week, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Voto Latino and the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans to end bullying over the use of drop boxes in Arizona. The ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to Allegheny County officials regarding mail-in voting issues.

On the way to 2020, the nation had mainly focused on whether foreign actors – Russia or perhaps China – would meddle in the election and wreak havoc on the vote count. It didn’t happen; instead, the conspiracy was born and fed on Trump and his supporters.

US officials are sound the alarm again that Russia is working to amplify doubts about the integrity of the elections.

This week, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “No outside cyber activity has ever stopped a registered voter from voting; compromised the integrity of any ballot; or affected the accuracy of voter registration information.

And she promised the government would “monitor any threats to our elections if they arise and work as a cohesive and cohesive interagency to provide relevant information to election officials and workers on the ground.”

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